Atlassian 2018

State of Diversity and Inclusion in U.S. Tech

Despite massive amounts of attention and discussion about diversity and inclusion, most of the tech industry is not making significant progress toward building balanced teams. The question is, why?


For the second year in a row, we commissioned a report to understand the attitudes and behaviors of tech workers in Silicon Valley and the United States. This year's results show that fatigue has set in and progress has stalled. People are tired of talking about diversity and inclusion, frustrated by talk not turning into impactful action, and overwhelmed by the number of issues. While respondents continue to say that diversity and inclusion are important, action declined across the board.

See the full report

Key findings...

80%

of respondents agree D&I is important

HOWEVER...

Up to

50%

decrease in individual participation year over year

More than

40%

believe their company's inclusion of people from underrepresented groups needs no improvement

Less than

30%

of underrepresented groups have representation, retention, and sense of belonging

And

Adoption of company-wide initiatives remains flat

CHALLENGES

Three primary reasons why individuals are opting out

People say that D&I is important, yet their actions do not match their words. Why are people failing to take responsibility to create positive change?

Diversity fatigue

It takes a lot of energy and resources to solve these complex problems, and it's difficult to stay committed when progress is slow or non-existent.

The wrong conversation

Most D&I programs focus on increasing the representation numbers of a narrowly-defined category of "diverse" candidates, instead of focusing on belonging and inclusion throughout the company.

Breadth of issues

Many individuals feel they can't make a significant difference in such a complex web of problems, and they become too overwhelmed to take action.

Learn more

The effects of current events and diversity fatigue

There's a lot of talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, yet participation is falling across the board. Why is this happening? Why aren't people doing more to affect an area they say is important to them?

Diversity fatigue

It's hard to stay dedicated to topics and actions that require significant emotional labor, and some people are too tired to devote their full energy to the solution. In fact, compassion fatigue is a well-known and widely-researched condition that shows that caring too much can hurt, causing physical symptoms like nausea and dizziness. The concept of "diversity fatigue" has been coming up more and more in the D&I discussion, and is driving the falling participation rates. If people don't see results and they're paying a high emotional price for advocacy, it's harder to stay committed to the goal.

We're having the wrong conversation

By focusing actions on a small group of underrepresented people, we're setting ourselves up to fail. Instead of focusing on deeper issues, like belonging and inclusion, we're trying to move the needle on a narrow set of numbers. Individuals are the key to making lasting change, but if they aren't focusing on making everyone feel welcome, they will become frustrated and exhausted because their efforts are not paying off. Research from the Kapor Center shows an increase in efficacy when comprehensive and customized D&I programs are rolled out together. A comprehensive program reduces actions that harm belonging and inclusion, including unfairness, sexual harassment, and bullying.

The breadth of issues

The country is more divided than ever due to the Presidential election, the #metoo movement shining a light on the pervasiveness of harassment, and mounting evidence of pervasive bias against and undermining of marginalized people in the industry. The sheer number of issues can be overwhelming if we try to address them all at once. When you're already tired from the work you've done, and you don't see results in the short-term, it's difficult to continue when you realize that it's a big problem. The feeling that, "I'm just one person, how can I possibly make a difference to problems of this magnitude?" means that people stop taking action.

SOLUTIONS

Where we go from here

How do we re-energize the commitment to D&I?

Focus on team-level progress

Most of the current D&I conversations focus on company-level metrics. But if underrepresented people are found only in select departments or at the lower levels of the company, you're not gaining the complete value of having a balanced team. It's also looking at a unit too big for folks to effect: if they can influence their team, they've done something important.

Foster belonging and inclusion

Equip individuals with the skills to make an impact within their sphere of influence, and raise our collective standards about how people engage in the workplace. Begin by listening to and believing marginalized people who tell their stories, and listen to them about the solutions—their expertise is valuable. Companies must create a place where teammates can have open, respectful dialogue – by understanding others' experiences, we can learn to help them belong.

Update processes and policies

Tactical programs can address representation and retention issues. A diverse-slate approach to hiring, implementing a values-aligned vs. a culture-fit interview, and providing opportunities specifically for people from underrepresented groups to grow and develop are proven to be effective.

Learn more

Where do we go from here?

Some people may not understand the impact of a balanced and inclusive team. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it's also how businesses will survive in an increasingly globalized, knowledge-work based environment, as research shows diverse teams produce better outcomes. At Atlassian, we recognize that our teams must build for a diverse set of customers, and we know that we can't build products to be used by all if we do not have a variety of perspectives on each team. Furthermore, inclusive organizations experience more access to talent and lower employee turnover, saving millions per year in recruiting costs. When employees feel they can bring their authentic selves to work, they are happier and more productive, leading to better business outcomes.

The tech industry prides itself on finding innovative solutions to complex problems and insists on valuing skills above all. But research shows it's the exact opposite of these values driving professional opportunity in the tech industry, hindering progress on D&I. If we're going to create a better future, we must start by creating a better present.

Here are a few of the ways that Atlassian is working to be the change we seek:

Updating language in job ads

Tools like Textio help remove unintentional bias from job ads. Some of the most ubiquitous phrases in tech have a chilling effect on applications from women and people of color, and the way people promote their culture often only appeals to those already overrepresented in the industry. For example, "work hard, play hard," "ninja," and "crushing it" subtly imply that a workplace might not be welcoming to women or older workers.

Removing bias in the hiring process

Many organizations rely on "culture fit" in their interview processes, but the truth is that culture fit is an intractable morass of unconscious bias. People want to work with someone they like, who enjoys similar activities. Unfortunately, this approach has resulted in group think and systemic exclusion in Silicon Valley. To mitigate this, Atlassian focuses on values alignment in interviews, looking for employees who demonstrate behaviors consistent with our core values like empathy, initiative to improve your environment and communicating openly.

Diverse-slate approach to hiring

Systemic issues like access to education can exacerbate the gaps in representation. Instead of relying solely on formal education in the hiring process, hiring managers should seek to understand candidates' full breadth of experience to determine their ability to do the job. For example, Atlassian uses the diverse-slate approach to hiring at the Director level and above, and utilizes HackerRank to ensure that candidates are evaluated fairly on their skills.

Team-level metrics

Most of the current D&I conversations focus on company-level metrics. But high-level metrics don't tell the full story. If underrepresented people are found only in select departments or at the lower levels of the company, you're not gaining the complete value of having a balanced team. In addition to the diverse-slate approach to hiring, companies should also implement specific criteria when assigning high-profile projects and putting people up for promotion, instead of simply thinking of people who might be a fit.

Embed D&I throughout the organization

For D&I to be effective, it must show up everywhere, not just in a top-down approach from a D&I professional. It's found in the way teams execute programs, how the company creates inclusive events for employees and customers, and the communications and messaging. People will feel real belonging not only during times of success, but also when they can dissent, be validated, and fail publicly. 

Re-commit to increasing balance, belonging, and inclusion on your team.

At Atlassian, our mission is to unleash the potential in every team. Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable components of our ability to fulfill that mission, and we plan to use these results to refine our programs and initiatives.

But we can't do it alone. We challenge you to step up. Live up to the reputation as the most innovative problem-solvers in the world. Re-commit to increasing balance, belonging, and inclusion on your team.

DATA

2018 U.S. Tech D&I Findings


Companies and individuals say they care about diversity and inclusion

Companies and individuals continue to believe that diversity and inclusion are important. Roughly 80% of respondents agree that diversity and inclusion are important, which is a slight uptick from 2017.

Silicon Valley: Respondents agree that D&I is important

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: Respondents agree that D&I is important

Number of respondents (%)

Talk to us

Tell us how you are pushing for change, and share your best diversity and inclusion tips using #teamup.

Discrepancy between belief and action

Though companies are running programs to improve D&I, the rate of implementation ground to a halt. Silicon Valley has fewer formal D&I programs than last year, and the tech industry as a whole just caught up to Silicon Valley.

This year, we’ve seen companies do the following:

Silicon Valley: Company action

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: Company action

Number of respondents (%)

Individual participation has fallen

While 80% of individuals say D&I is important, individual participation has fallen across the board. Only participation in diversity working groups grew significantly year over year.

Silicon Valley: Individual action

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: Individual action

Number of respondents (%)

Individuals are the key to progress

Respondents continue to believe individuals are the key to improving diversity and inclusion. However, the belief that companies will affect these issues dropped in Silicon Valley and the U.S., while the belief that national government, local government, and the judicial system would have an impact grew. This indicates respondents have less confidence that their companies will do the right thing on their own, and feel legislative action will be needed to improve diversity and inclusion.

Silicon Valley: Who has the most impact on improving D&I?

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: Who has the most impact on improving D&I?

Number of respondents (%)

Learn more from the Kapor Center
Read about the effects of comprehensive D&I programs: Tech-Leavers Study by the Kapor Center

Maintaining the status quo

Though participation in D&I initiatives fell in Silicon Valley, it appears that respondents are more aware of the issues at an industry and company level. And while respondents from the U.S. are more optimistic about the progress they've made year over year, their ratings are in line with last year's responses from Silicon Valley. In summary, we know we're failing, but we're not willing to do the hard work to change.

Silicon Valley: Respondents who give an “A” grade

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: Respondents who give an “A” grade

Number of respondents (%)

Low representation, retention, and belonging

Despite implementing initiatives and participating in the conversation, we lack representation, retention, and a sense of belonging among underrepresented groups in tech. Silicon Valley percentages fell in all three categories. We've seen an increase in the sense of belonging and representation in the broader U.S. respondents, and retention remained flat. Unfortunately, the improvements in the tech industry at large merely bring them in line with the ratings from Silicon Valley last year.

Silicon Valley: Rating representation, retention, and belonging

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: Rating representation, retention, and belonging

Number of respondents (%)

No improvement needed

And yet, respondents feel that their company needs no improvement in the following areas:

Silicon Valley: No improvement needed

Number of respondents (%)

U.S.: No improvement needed

Number of respondents (%)

Learn more from the Ascend Foundation
Think tech needs no improvement? Think again. Ascend Foundation found that representation of Black and Hispanic women has fallen.

See the full report

Where do we go from here?

There’s no question that solving tech’s representation challenges to achieve true diversity is hard. But no matter where your company or team currently sits on the diversity continuum, there is a way forward. Armed with a better sense of where the most common gaps in understanding are, we can interrupt bias and help our industry become the meritocracy it should be.

This requires investment at every level: companies must correctly analyze the diversity of their organizations, functions and teams; they must equip their employees with actionable strategies to help them create the kinds of inclusive environments that attract and sustain diversity; and individuals must understand the true state of diversity in tech, and contribute to practices that change their teams, companies and the industry culture for the better.

Share your experiences and tips: #teamup

Click here to download a full summary of survey statistics.

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The survey was conducted on behalf of Atlassian by Market Cube in January 2018 among 1,500 tech workers in the United States, and 400 tech workers in Silicon Valley. Respondents were drawn from a diverse range of geographies and job roles at companies of 20 employees or more.