How three tech talent execs think about improving workforce diversity

Early career opportunities and achievable goals are key.
article cover

Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

· 4 min read

Your big breakthrough. With a career in tech at Capital One, you’ll turn your ingenuity into impact. Their team of technologists combine design and data to inspire product vision. From data engineering to machine learning to cyber risk, align your skillset with the right tools—and a passion for building a better tomorrow. Join the Capital One team.

The tech industry is contending with an incongruous reality: There’s both a talent shortage and a pervasive underrepresentation of women and people of color across teams and companies.

For many hiring and personnel experts, the status quo isn’t acceptable, and their organizations are working to change it. A few recently shared tips with Tech Brew about how companies that are innovating in their fields can help to create more diverse workplaces.

Lower the barriers to entry

M.K. Palmore, director of Google Cloud’s office of the CISO, spent 22 years at the FBI before moving to the private sector. Now, he’s applying a forensic sensibility to improving Big Tech diversity practices.

Palmore started noticing the largely white, male monoculture at Silicon Valley tech companies when he worked as an FBI cybersecurity liaison. He said the relatively low numbers of women and people of color working in cybersecurity, compared to their representation in the general population, led him to a leadership role with Cyversity, a nonprofit working to bring people from underrepresented groups into the cybersecurity workforce.

“There’s nonprofit entities, there’s industry, there’s the public sector. All have to come together and support an effort to bring more people to the table as it relates to cybersecurity,” he said.

According to Palmore, welcoming people from a variety of backgrounds into an organization starts at the early-career stage. To move toward a more diverse workforce, Palmore said that the industry should focus on creating more entry-level jobs, internship opportunities, and “trial runs” to help ensure new hires are a good fit.

“Organizations will say they want talent, and then you put talent in front of them, and the talent is missing something; they may have the certifications and degrees, but they don’t have the experience,” he said. “Because cybersecurity is such an impactful issue for business enterprise, oftentimes, there’s very little space or grace that’s given to the idea of hiring someone who may lack experience.”

Follow the money

Kyle Samuels, founder and CEO of recruiting firm Creative Talent Endeavors, said it can be difficult to generate buy-in for goals that may not seem at first to tie back to an immediate economic value—though it’s well-established that a diverse workplace makes good business sense.

His company created an AI-powered algorithm to offer executive recruiting services with transparent pricing, aiming to democratize the process by removing potential bias toward high-salary candidates and offering companies with limited budgets access to executive search services.

Samuels encouraged companies to dig deeper than hiring diverse candidates to improve the optics of their website or company photos. To effect lasting change, he said explaining the “why” behind hiring can help executives get on board with strategies for finding the best candidate.

“Companies will tout, ‘Oh, we hired our CFO as a Hispanic woman.’ So? But ‘because she’s a Hispanic woman, she helped us grow our market share in South America. And now, after 16 months, we’ve increased revenue,’” he said. “You want someone who understands the culture, has experience—that totally makes sense.”

Eliminate blind spots

Blake Jackson, manager of global talent initiatives and early-career programs at analytics firm Amplitude, and who founded the company’s Black Leaders at Amplitude Creating Change (BLACC) employee resource group, focuses on the practical implications of hiring more diverse teams. As a starting point, Jackson suggested looking at individual teams and assessing any potential blind spots.

“At the end of the day, the more diversity that you have within your teams, that helps eliminate blind spots,” he said. “People have biases. And it’s not like it’s malicious. We just kind of have those affinity biases. Without any other point of view in that room to kind of call that out, then you just end up with more homogeny.”

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.