Diversity and Inclusion Series:3 Things the Tech Industry Can Learn from the Oscars

This is the first post of a three-part series on the lessons that the tech community can learn from the Oscars when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

After this year’s Oscars, we discovered something:  The tech community can learn a lot from the movie industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

In just a year since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made positive steps towards resolving its diversity problem. One great night for diversity does not completely solve the issue, but it is a step in the right direction.

The tech industry, which has struggled to make significant gains on its diversity numbers, can learn a thing or two from the movie industry.

Here is the first of three lessons on diversity and inclusion that the tech industry can take from the movie industry:

Oscars Lesson #1: The first step is admittance.

The tech community should admit that it does not open its doors to diverse talent rather than blaming its problem on a lack of talent.

Post the #OscarSoWhite debacle, the Academy vowed to embark on a five-year initiative to “double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.”

The Academy soon learned that five years was too long and embarked on an aggressive review and overhaul of its governance structure. This review led to the purging of 70 members and the welcoming of 683 new members to the Academy. By taking a hard look at its structure, the Academy effectively recognized that its diversity issue did not stem from a lack of quality films featuring talented people of color and women but rather a lack of opportunity for representation of existing films.

In the past couple of years, only incremental improvements have occurred in tech’s diversity numbers. The reasons for this vary, but one common theme constantly arises: the broken pipeline problem. In 2016, Facebook’s Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams blamed the company’s low diversity numbers on this issue. She explained that the current public education system does not provide students with the necessary skills. Put simply: There is just not enough talent. At the time, many people disagreed with and were offended by her comments.This explanation is highly suspect when considering other factors such as companies’ interview methods and their internal referral processes.

Even if there is inadequate technical education, what about other non-technical areas like business, marketing, and sales roles? There is a misconception in Silicon Valley that all jobs in tech require technical expertise. However, this is not true. For instance, take online recommendation site Yelp, about 70 percent of its jobs are non-engineering roles (pre-dominantly sales).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of bachelor’s degrees earned by black, Hispanic, and female students is on the rise. Further, NCES found that black women are the most educated group in the U.S. with 9.7 percent enrolled in college – more than Asian women, white women, and white men. Ultimately, underrepresented minorities and women are earning other degrees. This increased education empowers students with the necessary skills needed to succeed in the tech industry’s non-technical positions.

The tech community should admit that it is not a lack of talent keeping the industry from being more diverse and inclusive. Rather, it comes down to creating a system that acknowledges perfectly viable, underrepresented candidates and provides them with the opportunity to succeed.

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