For years, companies have invested significant time and resources in improving representation and inclusion in the workplace. Yet there is still little concrete and lasting progress, particularly when it comes to the inclusion of Black, Latina, and Native American (BLNA) women in technical roles. Since the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition launched in 2018, the number of computing degrees awarded to BLNA women has expanded dramatically. The collective power of the coalition has helped create significant change in a competitive, fast-moving landscape. Now, companies can build on those gains and transform the technical workforce.
The research in this report demonstrates how company action positively affects employee satisfaction and retention across all demographic groups. We surveyed more than 2,000 technical employees, including BLNA women and their peers from other demographic groups, about 38 organizational policies and practices. In addition to our survey, this report builds on existing research, much of which focuses on the subjective experiences of BLNA women.
This report, a collaborative effort by Reboot Representation and McKinsey in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, explores effective strategies that employers can use to attract, retain, and advance BLNA women. It provides tools to help companies assess their current policies and practices and intentionally implement new strategies that are inclusive, accessible, and empowering for BLNA women.
The state of BLNA women in the technical workforce
Between 2016 and 2021, the number of computing degrees awarded to BLNA women nearly doubled. Simultaneously, however, BLNA women’s representation in the technical workforce is shrinking, dropping by more than 10 percent in the past four years—from 4.6 percent in 2018 to 4.1 percent in 20221 (exhibit).
Our research shows that current policies and practices aren’t helping BLNA women in technology as much as they could be, leaving value on the table for employers. In addition, we found that approximately 40 percent of BLNA women reported experiencing prejudice related to gender or race at work. These biases can have a negative impact on employees’ sense of belonging and overall experience, driving them to leave their company or the technical workforce entirely.
To consolidate educational gains and build a workforce of thriving BLNA women technologists, companies need to be more intentional about ensuring that their talent strategies explicitly address employee needs at the intersection of gender and race or ethnicity. In doing so, companies can prioritize talent efforts and get the most out of their investments. Comprehensive talent efforts could lay the foundation for a more supportive workplace that helps all employees thrive, especially groups that face steep barriers in the technical workforce.
How BLNA women can thrive in the workplace
Employers can take concrete steps to improve the workplace experience for BLNA women in technical roles. Our research identified nine practices and policies that BLNA women said had the most impact on their ability to join their company, stay there, or advance within it. These interventions fall into three categories of action:
Democratize access to information to level the playing field
1. Share salary ranges so people know what they can expect.
2. Maintain an accessible internal jobs board so people can understand opportunities across the organization.
3. Assign mentors to support candidates in the interview process by clarifying the process, answering questions, and helping candidates prepare for interviews.
Increase flexibility, enabling employees to work the way they work best
4. Provide paid sick leave to all employees.
5. Offer expanded mental health benefits such as personal leave.
6. Give employees the option to work remotely, hybrid, or on-site.
7. Enable employees to flex their working hours—for example, through compressed workweeks, alternative work schedules, and job sharing.
Demystify development by charting clear pathways for employee development and career advancement
8. Offer professional development programs to help employees expand their networks and grow (for example, career accelerators, job shadowing, and rotation opportunities).
9. Provide actionable next steps for development or advancement directly following a performance review.
BLNA women who work at organizations that offer all nine cornerstone policies and practices were more than 75 percent more likely to stay in their jobs longer than BLNA women at companies that did not offer all nine. And these policies benefit the entire workforce. Employees from all other demographic groups reported being nearly 80 percent more likely to be satisfied with their work experience at organizations that offered all nine cornerstone policies and practices.
A road map to close the gap
By exploring existing policies and practices from both corporate and technologist perspectives, this report provides a road map to help companies prioritize the tactics that will make the most of limited time and resources. It includes key opportunities for action along with tools and resources to support companies in creating environments in which all employees feel supported and can contribute fully.
To create lasting progress, business leaders can collect and disaggregate data at the intersection of race or ethnicity and gender to sharpen decision making; deliver results and fulfill the promises that have been made to employees by focusing on the highest-impact practices; and iterate and improve continuously by centering the needs of BLNA women technologists to create a workplace in which all employees can truly thrive. By taking these steps deliberately, companies can help close the gap for BLNA women in the technical workforce.
Intentionally building an inclusive workforce isn’t always easy—and it can’t be done alone. The actions recommended in this report are tactical, well within reach, and an efficient place to start amid competing priorities. These tools can give companies the resources to move beyond checking a box to truly build inclusive cultures where all employees feel that they belong. Getting this right can unleash the full potential of BLNA women’s technical talent.