DEI Work Crucial to Tech Talent Acquisition, Study Finds


With remote work now a fact of life for tech firms, recruiting people from diverse backgrounds has never been easier —  or more essential — to hiring, says a report from ProFocus.  

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Tech companies that want to recruit and retain new talent need to commit to diversifying their workforces, according to a newly released report from a Portland-based IT staffing firm.

According to the Portland Tech in Focus: 2022 Trends Report,compiled by the IT staffing agency ProFocus, nearly half of companies surveyed (46%) reported finding talent was the company’s biggest challenge. More than half of all respondents (54%) said the IT talent shortage keeps their team from meeting key goals. 

“Companies are all investing in tech. Everyone is recruiting all of a sudden because suddenly they have all realized they need these new customer-facing technologies,” says John Boone, the staffing firm’s founder and president. “Tech talent has really become a horse race between competitors.” 

One thing that would help, the report says, is working harder to attract workers from diverse backgrounds. 

Nearly one-third of U.S. jobseekers say they wouldn’t apply to a job where there’s a lack of workforce diversity, the report notes. 

“And it’s not only racial and gender diversity, though that’s certainly a big part of it,” Boone says. “People of different religions, sexual orientations, and neurodiverse people should also be on your company’s radar.” 

Boone also notes that tech companies have also begun targeting people with physical disabilities, such as wheelchair users, in their recruitment materials. 

“One of the exciting things about DEI is remote work, since it lets companies no longer be constrained to hiring employees who live near them,” says Boone. “That’s particularly important in places like Portland where there isn’t a lot of relative diversity.” 

Data for the The Portland Tech in Focus: 2022 Trends Report was gathered through an online survey of 173 Portland-area technology professionals conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 23, 2021.

While Portland tech firms get high marks from tech professionals overall in terms of company culture, there’s a notable discrepancy in who is offering those marks. Eighty-two percent of male employees say their firm builds and maintains a positive culture, where 67% of female, nonbinary and genderqueer respondents gave similarly high marks. While 81% of white tech employees rated their company culture positively, just 70% of respondents who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color say the same. 

The report also notes that non-white, non-male survey respondents rated their experiences less positively in other areas, including burnout, training and “career pathing.”

While 70% of firms that participated in the survey are investing in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, larger firms were much more likely to have a formal DEI program — with 88% of survey respondents at large companies saying they had a DEI program, versus 47% of smaller companies.

The most popular DEI programs, the report notes, are set up to address recruitment and retention issues. These include affinity groups, diverse interview panels and talent acquisition strategies for non-traditional candidates. But just 39% of firms surveyed say they are formally tracking the pipeline of candidates from marginalized backgrounds. 

Noemi Rodriguez, customer success manager at Canby insurance management software company Hawksoft, says the company’s DEI practices have contributed to her staying with the company for nine years.

A company-sponsored DEI advocacy group made up of employees was one way Hawksoft “walked the talk” on inclusion practices, according to Rodriguez. After a recommendation by the group, Hawksoft incorporated Juneteenth — a federal holiday celebrating the emancipation of African-American slaves during the Civil War — into its list of company holidays. 

“It’s really good to have people other than the top executives at the company talking about how they feel and what’s important to them. You are able to adapt to a company’s culture so much easier and it makes things more open.” says Rodriguez. “We always have someone to go to. There’s no suggestion box where things just go into the abyss.”

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