2019 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey Results

In Blog, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by Felicia Jadczak

SGO has provided programming in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (‘DEI’) space since 2017. In 2018, we conducted our first ever survey to assess how and what the Boston-area tech community thought about diversity and inclusion. Specifically, we wanted to hear from tech companies about what they were doing to respond to the increase in interest in diversity and inclusion, and from individuals working at these aforementioned tech companies to gauge how their experiences were at these organizations. 

A lot has happened since the 2018 survey was originally conducted, and we released an updated survey in 2019. We opened our survey to include responses from people in all fields and industries. The focus of the 2019 survey was to assess how DEI was or wasn’t part of the respondents’ experiences in a workplace context. We also wanted to find out if our thoughts on trends within the workplace were matching up with what people were actually experiencing. This survey was conducted online via SurveyMonkey from November 2019 through February 2020, with a total of 420 participants from not just Boston, but also cities across the U.S. from Seattle to Orlando, and beyond– we even received a few international responses from Canada, Germany, France, and New Zealand. One silver lining we’ve been reflecting on lately is that for many years we’ve been debating the best way to scale SGO beyond Boston, and this survey was an early indicator that we are truly global! 

The survey questions focused on a few high-level areas: demographic data of respondents; thoughts and feelings regarding how various industries were addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion; company culture; inclusive corporate policies; post-2016 changes or shifts in the workplace. The biggest takeaways from the survey are that issues and concerns around DEI are still prevalent, are shared, and are not unique to one geographical area or even one industry. While there were a lot of positive areas that respondents highlighted, we found that the vast majority (89%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that diversity, equity, and inclusion are issues of concern in their industry. Interestingly, 78% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they felt like they belonged in their industry, and 80% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt like they belonged at their company. These were much higher data points related to inclusion than we had perhaps been anticipating, but underline the reality that while there is actually a lot of good work being done in these areas, we still have ample opportunities for improvement. 

Additional highlights of the survey:

  • The majority of survey respondents were employed full-time (88%)
  • Nearly half of respondents were mid-career, with 22% senior professionals
  • Aligning with the previous data point, over half of respondents were ages 21-34
  • 55% of the responses were from Boston, and the rest were from a variety of US cities and countries
  • The majority of respondents were white (73%), with 9% identifying as Black/African-American/Afro-Caribbean, 9% identifying as Latinx/Latin/Hispanic-American, 9% identifying as East Asian, 4% identifying as South Asian, 2% Middle Eastern, 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 1% Indigenous/Native American/First Nation
  • While a variety of industries were represented, the industry that the highest percentage of respondents worked in (35%) was Software/SaaS 

Opportunities for improvement:

  • 77% said they have personally witnessed or experienced discrimination while working in their industry
  • 43% said they have personally witnessed or experienced discrimination at their company
  • Employees are willing to trade having a higher salary in exchange for having a more supportive team and/or manager
  • Many respondents reported that DEI is still seen as a ‘nice to have’ and/or non-essential, and when discussed at an organizational level, paid lip-service only
  • Culture is extremely important– but can vary quite a bit from team to team, or even department to department– and doesn’t always align with the organizational culture overall 
  • Many employees are still in need of having separate spaces for discussions around DEI, and this points to a larger issue which is that companies have a lot of work to do in order to be more inclusive of a wider variety of identity groups
  • Many respondents highlighted that their companies claim to support DEI, but have no formal trainings or programs in place, and further report that the burden of working on these initiatives is still treated in many cases as a grassroots/volunteer role, or in addition to an employee’s full time position
  • There is a need to dig deeper into corporate policies and processes– for example, a common thread was that as you climb up the ranks, there is still very much an ‘old boys club’ mentality that persists, and underrepresented groups should be present at all levels, not just at the entry levels 
  • Employees want companies to be proactive with changes and implementation, and actually do something as opposed to just talking about doing something
  • There is a need for alignment of what’s being rolled out and discussed at various levels of an organization– many times the discussions that senior leaders are having are not properly communicated down to middle managers and entry level staff. On the other hand, bottoms-up conversations are not always able to filter their way up to the C-suite. 

There are many productive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives taking place at work. However, the journey is still in its infancy for many, and a large number of organizations have a great deal of work left to do. If your organization is in need of any guidance or assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team here at SGO