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Tech is overwhelmingly white and male, and white men are just fine with that

Stack Overflow is a popular Q&A online platform for coders.
Reuters/Vivek Prakash
Stack Overflow is a popular Q&A online platform for coders.
  • Keith Collins
By Keith Collins

Tech Reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Women make up about half of the workforce in the United States, but they only hold a quarter of computer- and math-related jobs. Black and Hispanic workers hold only 15% of those jobs, even though their share of the American workforce is nearly double that. And new survey data suggests that as far as the tech industry is concerned, those breakdowns are just fine.

The industry’s attitude toward diversity was made plain in this year’s global survey of developers conducted by Stack Overflow, the popular question-and-answer website for programmers. The website polled 11,445 respondents in the US, 85.5% of whom were men, and a majority of whom were white. When asked how important the overall diversity of a company is when determining whether they want to work there, respondents scored the issue, on average, 1.9 out of 5, making it their least important consideration.

Globally, Stack Overflow found that 60.5% of white male respondents believe that diversity in the workplace is important, making white men the least likely demographic to hold that belief. (Worldwide, the site polled 64,227 software developers in 213 countries.)

(*Note: “Other” includes Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Indigenous Australians.)

The distribution of participants in Stack Overflow’s survey is itself instructive: 88.6% were male, and 74.4% were white. This may not be the fairest snapshot of tech around the world—participants are self-selected—but it does tell us something about the people who do self-select, who identify as software developers, and who engage in the community at large.

Globally, only 7.6% of Stack Overflow’s respondents were women, which is just 4,881 of the 64,227 developers who opted to take the survey. It’s a stunningly low number, but also the highest that number has ever been: In 2016 and 2015, only 5.8% of the survey’s participants were women, and in 2014 it was just 4.6%.

Another poll, this one conducted exclusively in the US by software firm Atlassian Inc., gives us a look at how the industry feels about this status quo. Atlassian asked 1,400 tech workers—63% of whom were men and 66% white—about the state of diversity in tech. Nearly half of the respondents believed the companies they worked for didn’t need to make any improvements to their approach to gender diversity.

The survey also asked about diversity in age, race, and ethnicity. About half of the respondents felt there was no need for improvement in those areas, either.

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