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Half of Gen Z Tech Employees Feel Uncomfortable at Work Due to Their Identity: Report

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The technology industry’s years-long effort to diversify its workforce remains slow-moving and disjointed, according to Wiley’s latest “Diversity in Tech: U.S. 2022” report, released today following a survey of more than 2,000 early-career professionals and 200 business leaders.

The tech industry is still struggling to recruit and retain talent from myriad backgrounds. Nearly 70% of business leaders said they struggle to recruit Black, Hispanic or Latino/a/e, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and other historically underrepresented talent at every organizational level—including entry-level talent (39%), mid-level talent (28%) and senior-level talent (18%)—while 43% said the same about retaining their historically underrepresented employees.

This challenge is well recognized by most organizations. Sixty-one percent of business leaders are aware of a continuing lack of diversity on their tech teams, with 37% noticing a lack of gender diversity, 32% a lack of ethnic and racial diversity, 27% a lack of socio-economic diversity, and 16% a lack of neurodiversity.

The second annual report compiled by Wiley Edge—Wiley’s industry-leading talent development solution—explores the early-career experiences of tech and non-tech Gen Z employees, while providing actionable recommendations for businesses to advance their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals.

“With a growing awareness of the tech industry’s lack of diversity comes a growing responsibility to finally address it,” said Todd Zipper, Wiley’s executive vice president and general manager of University Services and Talent Development. “This effort begins with creating more equitable pathways to tech careers for young professionals, including through customized training programs that prepare them for success from day one.”

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Ms. Archana Jayaraj, Director, Partnerships, and Talent, APAC, Wiley Edge, said, “While opportunities abound for entry-level talent in the tech sector, Wiley Edge’s ‘Diversity in Tech’ report indicates the need for sustained efforts to create a more equitable workforce. As a talent development partner to some of the largest organizations around the world, we stand committed to helping them achieve their DE&I goals and aspirations by making deliberate efforts to democratize opportunities and create a level playing field.”

The report’s key insights include:

Working in tech remains an uncomfortable experience for many Gen Z employees.

Despite nearly 60% of business leaders saying their companies work hard to foster an inclusive culture, half of Gen Z tech workers (50%) have still felt uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background or neurodevelopmental condition. This number rose to 55% for women, 56% for LGBTQ+ respondents and 61% for Black respondents.

When asked why they had left or wanted to leave a tech role, employees most often cited the lack of a sense of belonging (20%). Young Black professionals were the least positive (47%) about their experience across all racial or ethnic categories.

Given the tools and environment to succeed, however, more than half (53%) of Gen Z professionals currently working in tech said they aspire to one day be in a senior leadership position, including 57% of women compared with 49% of men.

Greater awareness of tech-career pathways is essential.

Gen Z professionals often don’t know about, or feel qualified for, career pathways in tech. Less than a quarter (23%) of 18-24-year-olds who are not currently working in tech said they believe it offers excellent career opportunities, despite the same percentage also saying tech careers are likely to be some of the most future-proof. A quarter of women and 17% of men said they didn’t know anything about careers in tech.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they didn’t have, or know how to get, the right qualifications to pursue a career in tech; not having the right qualifications was the top-ranked choice among Hispanic or Latino/a/e (25%), white (25%) and Black (17%) respondents. Women (23%) were more likely than men (15%) to say they weren’t good at math and science, which deterred them from pursuing a tech career.

Focusing on a small talent pool is limiting hiring efforts.

While 39% of business leaders said they struggle to recruit entry-level employees, 45% admitted they are more likely to hire—or exclusively hire—graduates from top-ranked universities, which ultimately makes it more difficult to fill entry-level tech roles.

For example, whereas 79% of businesses that focused their recruitment exclusively on top-ranked universities said they struggle to recruit entry-level software developers, only 19% of businesses that equally consider all applications said the same.

However, 77% of business leaders said they try to develop employees internally when recruiting for senior tech positions, establishing pipelines of talent and growth opportunities within organizations.

The value of diversity initiatives is not yet fully acknowledged by employers.

When asked why they are conscious of their workforce’s diversity, only a third of business leaders (33%) said it’s because it’s the right thing to do.

Nearly a third (31%) of businesses are still failing to collect workforce demographic data, only about half (49%) have a mentorship program to support the personal and professional development of Gen Z employees, and 38% utilize employee resource groups aimed at fostering an inclusive workplace.

“There’s still much more work to be done to increase diversity in the tech industry,” said Daniele Grassi, Chief Operating Officer of Wiley Edge. “We are committed to helping businesses improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforces as well as attract and retain early-career professionals, including those from historically underrepresented backgrounds.”

Wiley Edge provides employers with an edge in the marketplace by harnessing a Hire-Train-Deploy model that trains college graduates with in-demand skill sets to meet the highly specific needs of corporate clients. To help these companies diversify their tech teams, Wiley Edge helps to recruit graduates from historically underrepresented backgrounds and communities. Of graduates placed with companies in 2021, 31% were female and 51% were from Black, AAPI, or other historically underrepresented groups.

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