In partnership with DataKind, GET Cities launched Technologist Retention at the Intersections – a first of its kind report that focuses on issues of race, gender, and intersectionality with regard to retention and experience in the tech industry. The report, based on a survey of tech workers in the Chicago metro area, highlights why people across various racial and gender identities stay in their roles, job hop, or leave the tech industry.
As the tech industry reset continues, there’s growing concern among advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion that the pace and high numbers of layoffs are rolling back hard-fought progress in the field. There are many reasons to be concerned. The data on this is evolving, but from what we’ve already seen, layoffs have disproportionately affected women, indicating that we’re likely to end up with a tech workforce that’s whiter and has even more men than a year ago.
GET Cities is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women, trans, and nonbinary people in tech through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the U.S. The GET Cities Chicago affiliate recently completed an exciting study, exploring why cis and trans women, genderqueer and non-binary people, and technologists from various racial backgrounds churn and stay in tech.
Given DataKind’s leadership in using data science and AI to improve the capabilities, reach, and scale of social impact organizations and extensive experience in data analysis, GET Cities partnered with DataKind on two key initiatives:
- The development of a report that expands on the experiences of Chicagoland technologists on advancement/promotion, inclusion, management, compensation, parental status, and representation and whether trends show that women who leave or are leaving have significantly different experiences on these indicators than women who stay.
- The parsing of the study to inform the design of a new mentor initiative to support Chicagoland area technologists in the hopes that survey results would reveal an area for intervention that would have the highest impact.
In partnership with DataKind, GET Cities launched today Technologist Retention at the Intersections – a new report that focuses on issues of race, gender, and intersectionality with regard to retention and experience in the tech industry. The report, based on a survey of tech workers in the Chicago metro area, highlights why people across various or multiple racial and gender identities stay in their roles, job hop, or leave the tech industry.
The report is the first of its kind, taking an inclusive and intersectional lens to truly understand the problems and solutions with regard to retention and the lived experience of many groups of historically excluded people in tech.
The biggest takeaway from the research sheds light on the gaps in data and insights from marginalized people that identify with various groups and how that void prohibits us from having enough knowledge to provide actionable solutions. So it’s crucial to continue to research intersectional identities to gain the necessary insights needed to positively move the needle on equity in tech.
“At DataKind, we work with communities all over the world, and we know that distribution of data is biased against marginalized groups, particularly when it comes to intersectionality,” says Lauren Woodman, DataKind CEO. “With AI poised to make more decisions on behalf of humans, we must ensure that these models are being designed to represent everyone accurately, and the best way to do that is for these groups to have a voice in how they’re designed. We hope this report will support the tech industry in continuing to have that conversation.”
For the report, over 400 technologists from underestimated groups in Chicago were surveyed – groups that share similarities with Silicon Valley tech workers but also differ in key ways that can provide insight into how tech roles and teams are evolving beyond the coasts. Key findings are included below.
The Chicagoland area is a place where women, transgender, and nonbinary technologists stay in the field of technology.
- Retention rates in the field are as high as 93.1 percent.
- Role retention rates are 68 percent.
Top drivers of field retention are as follows:
- Compensation – 67.7 percent of all respondents cited compensation as a reason.
- Advancement – 65.3 percent cited advancement for why they stay in tech.
- Management – 88.7 percent of people who stay report that they work well with their manager.
Race and gender can impact retention rates.
- Black technologists are retained in their role at a rate of 67.9 percent compared to 71 percent of white technologists.
- Transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer respondents stay in their role at a rate of 71.7 percent compared to 73 percent of cis gender technologists.
Despite high retention, there are other growth opportunities in the field:
- A considerably lower percentage (51 percent) report a positive experience in the tech field.
- 33.6 percent of technologists do not have someone with whom they can strategize their next promotion.
Amid this era of recession and pandemic, key recommendations include:
- Mentorship to support promotions
- Management resources to enable good working relationships between managers and reports.
While everyone is rightly concerned about the pace and high numbers of layoffs in the tech industry across the country, and while there’s growing proof that layoffs are hitting marginalized technologists the hardest, the survey highlights some successes of retention among these groups in Chicago specifically. And the report’s findings suggest that the main reasons they stay in their roles are replicable in multiple markets with thoughtful investment. The tech industry is already not known for its diversity, equity, and inclusion strengths. And this report, building on existing work around intersectionality, shines light on how the experience of multiple underestimated identities requires even further analysis and more specific attention.
“This is the right moment to ask big questions about the role of tech, the benefits of tech, and who is included and impacted,” said Serwah (Rose) Afriyie, former GET Cities Entrepreneur-In-Residence and the author of the study. “We’ve known for years that true diversity is key to creating the most beneficial products for the widest possible audiences, not only because it results in revenue growth, which it does, but because we have an opportunity to address wide-ranging concerns and provide solutions for people who have not had power in the field and often do not have many product options relevant to their daily lives.”
What’s next? It’s crucial to continue to research intersectional identities to gain the necessary insights needed to positively move the needle on equity in tech. GET Cities Chicago would like to operationalize the survey into an ongoing mentorship program. DataKind will develop a tool that leverages data shared by Chicago area technologists to help GET Cities with these programming decisions.
To dig into the survey results and findings, here’s the full report.
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