Notes from the Lab: What’s Keeping Marginalized Groups Out of Tech?


An article I wrote with Jez Humble, “The Core Belief Keeping Marginalized Groups Out of Tech,” is available online in Model View Culture [link]. I think it’s an interesting look at some recent trends about what keeps marginalized groups out of tech.

We hear so often about the talent shortage in technical fields — I used to hear it all the time as a university professor. And yet when we look among our ranks, who do we see? A lot of people that look quite similar. More importantly, who do we not see? We don’t see many women, who only make up 15% – 27% of the technical workforce, depending on the data source you cite. We also don’t see people of color, who represent 5% – 7% of technical workers. With one stroke, we could address this talent shortage by reaching out to these underrepresented groups and welcoming them into our world.

My article cites interesting research done by Sarah-Jane Leslie and her colleagues, which was published in Science in January 2015. The research finds evidence that what keeps women and minorities (in this research, African Americans) out of STEM fields is a widespread belief that they are innately incapable of doing the work.

So what can we do? Actively and consistently fight these stereotypes. Work against the belief that, in technical fields,  inborn ability is what matters and that only certain groups have that ability. Foster the belief that what matters is hard work and dedication. Review company processes and correct for any inequalities. Invest in developing your people.

I would encourage you to head over to Model View Culture to check out the article in full. [link]

For those who are interested, here’s the reference for Dr. Leslie’s paper: Leslie, S.J., Cimpian, A., Meyer, M., & Freeland, E. (2015). Expectations of Brilliance Underlie Gender Distributions Across Academic Disciplines. Science, 347(6219), 262-265.

Author Nicole Forsgren