Survey: Mistreatment, Bullying Driving Tech Talent to Quit

Survey: Mistreatment, Bullying Driving Tech Talent to Quit

A survey commissioned by the Kapor Center for Social Impact and released last week looks into the reasons why employees in the US tech sector quit their jobs. Nicholas Cheng at SF Gate outlines the 2017 Tech Leavers Study’s findings, which include the startling figures that women are twice as likely to quit as men, while black and Latino employees are 3.5 times as likely to quit as their white or Asian colleagues:

The most common reason they gave for their departures was workplace mistreatment. … Of those surveyed, 37 percent said they left their jobs because they felt they were unfairly treated; 78 percent said they had experienced some form of unfair treatment; and 85 percent said they had witnessed ill treatment happening to someone else at work. Black and Latino employees, the study said, were more likely to leave due to unfair treatment at work than white or Asian colleagues.

“This study is one step forward in demonstrating that there is a problem across the tech industry,” said Allison Scott, the center’s chief research officer. “We’ve seen the anecdotes and stories written lately and what we found is that those are not one-off stories, these are experiences happening across the sector and it’s a driver for people to leave.”

Feelings of unfair treatment were by no means exclusive, however, to women and underrepresented minorities, as Bloomberg’s Ellen Huet points out:

White and Asian men, who account for the majority of jobs at tech firms, were more likely than men of other backgrounds to feel they were unfairly managed. Their complaints were mostly aimed at what they described as poor leadership. Black and Latino people reported a different problem. They were almost twice as likely as white or Asian workers to say they experienced stereotyping, the study found. …

Race and gender have connections to how workers feel about their jobs and whether they’ll stick around, the study found. Women were more likely than men to experience or observe unfair treatment in the workplace. Black and Latina women were most likely to report that they had been passed over for a promotion, whereas more white and Asian women said colleagues took or received credit for their work.

John Paul Brammer at NBC News highlights another troubling finding, that LGBT employees are especially likely to quit their jobs because of bullying at work:

LGBTQ employees were the most likely to be bullied (20 percent) and experience public humiliation or embarrassment (24 percent), both at significantly higher rates than non-LGBTQ employees (13 percent). Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ people surveyed (64 percent) said bullying contributed to their decision to leave their company. …

“If LGBT people are being bullied at work, they aren’t able to be as productive, creative, or connected to their role and their workplace. How can our country be on the leading edge of technology if we’re still functioning with a 1950s view of who is welcome in the workplace?,” [Out & Equal Workplace Advocates CEO Selisse] Berry said in a statement emailed to NBC Out.

While most reports on diversity in the tech sector, particularly those released by employers themselves, focus on efforts to recruit more employees from underrepresented backgrounds, Elizabeth Dwoskin explains at the Washington Post why the Kapor Center chose to focus on retention instead:

Technology companies are now spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to increase their dismal diversity numbers; so far they’ve had limited results. Women represent 25 percent of tech employees though they are half the population; blacks and Latinos make up 30 percent of the population but roughly 15 percent of tech employees. Among the top Silicon Valley companies, black and Latino employees are only 3 to 5 percent of the workforce.

Hiring is only one-half of the equation, the authors said. If technology companies don’t make substantial efforts to understand how people feel once they are in the workplace, their hiring efforts will be canceled out by turnover. “Put simply, the diversity numbers may not be changing at least in part because tech companies have become a revolving door for underrepresented groups,” the authors wrote.