The technology industry is facing a crossroads. Despite being one of the most innovative sectors in the world, technology companies are announcing plans for broad cost-cutting measures through layoffs.
Recently, tech giant Microsoft announced it will cut approximately 10,000 jobs. Microsoft is among a slew of tech companies that have announced mass layoffs since the end of 2022, including Salesforce 1, Amazon and Meta, among others. Tech layoffs represent an alarming trend in terms of their disproportionate impact on women and minorities who are already underrepresented in many tech firms’ workforces and could have far-reaching consequences, both now and in the future.
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When staff layoffs are executed, considerations around diversity are often not prioritized. Essentially, the most affected by such layoffs tend to be the most vulnerable groups — women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals — as they often lack seniority or other forms of job protection compared to their majority counterparts. This means that even if companies strive to make their workforces more diverse, they may end up backsliding when they have to make cuts due to economic downturns or other reasons.
Technology solutions are more powerful and meaningful when developed by a variety of diverse individuals.
Without that diversity, the resulting solutions could be limited in their appeal or unwittingly biased toward one single uniform group. My reference to diversity goes beyond gender and includes a diversity of thought that is represented by different genders, cultures, upbringing, sexual orientations and educational backgrounds. Typically in tech companies, the people who struggle to move up or get recognized are these minority groups, and these are the people who typically get cut first.
There are several layers to this topic that create a systemic problem around diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. In my opinion, most of the barriers center around mindset and perception. Controversially, the perception that diversity is not critical for technology development or that men are better skilled in this space still seems prevalent. The next generation of people, the millennials, Gen Zs, and Alphas are prioritizing meaningful work, diversity and sustainable practices.
This is translating heavily into the tech community, as people are increasingly demanding that companies be responsible and represent the values that are important to them. This direction will play a role in holding a mirror up to tech companies, forcing them to not only improve their practices but also drive change across the industry.
Companies should take steps to minimize the impact of layoffs on their workforce’s diversity and inclusivity by engaging with vulnerable populations and providing resources to help them advance professionally. This will help them weather any storms and ensure a more equitable working environment for all employees.
Kamales Lardi is CEO of Lardi & Partner Consulting where she has advised many multinational companies across various industries in Europe, Asia and Africa for over a decade. She is also a Teaching Fellow at Durham University Business School, and is the chair of the Forbes Business Council Women Executives. Her latest book is “The Human Side of Digital Business Transformation.”
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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