It’s still not unusual for professionals of any seniority level to hide their sexual orientation, fearful that it might sway their image or potential in the workplace. Case in point: it took until 2014 for Britain to have its first openly gay chief executive of a FTSE 100 company, courtesy of Burberry’s Christopher Bailey.
Especially in London, we have a tendency to pinpoint the finance industry as the worst offender when it comes to attracting talent of all genders, skin colours, religions and beliefs. And why wouldn’t we? The Oxbridge-educated bankers and investors, with their double-barrelled surnames and corner offices in Canary Wharf’s ivory towers, are an easy target for our grievances.
But as the tech industry continues to balloon, enticing graduates with golden handshakes, free food, yoga breaks, exotic “off-sites” and the opportunity to help save the world one driverless car at a time, we need to reassess the targets of our frustrations. By most measures, at least half of the world’s 10 biggest companies are tech firms and, at the explosive rate at which they’re swelling, it’s only a matter of time before the tech world dictates the culture of global business. Perhaps it already does.
Most popular employers
A recent survey of more than 60 000 UK university students awarded Google the title of the most popular graduate employer.
Tech peers Microsoft and Amazon cruised into the top 10 too, pushing the highest placed banks, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, into 12th and 20th place, respectively. A separate study showed this month that JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs were the fourth and fifth most attractive employers in the UK for business and engineering students - but Google and Apple triumphed in first and second spot.
Understandably, an office full of bean bags and resident pooches may seem more appealing than working under the staid auspices of Wall Street luminaries, but if role models are a magnet for new talent, then we may be degenerating at a petrifying pace when it comes to progress towards stamping out archaic homogeneity.
Read also: WEF 2017: Diversity of voices crucial
The most recently available data shows men account for 69 percent of Google’s workforce, 59 percent are white and a measly 5 percent are black or Hispanic. If you think that’s poor, then take a look at the company’s tech teams, where the male contingent shoots up to 81 percent with just 4 percent black or Hispanic. Men hold 76 percent of leadership positions, and blacks and Hispanics just 3 percent. Asians hold 25 percent.
The picture is similar at Facebook. As of July last year, the company’s representation in senior leadership was 6 percent black and Hispanic and 27 percent women, mirroring Apple where the figures came in at 10 percent and 28 percent, respectively. In other words, Silicon Valley is dominated by tech bros.
Progress of any scale in the tech industry is of course commendable, especially when companies commit to concrete goals and very public campaigns: cloud computing behemoth Salesforce has appointed a chief equality officer, who reports directly to the chief executive.