Breaking into the tech industry is already a difficult feat, and Black employees in particular are facing systemic barriers that are blocking their career advancement.
Black tech employees move between companies more frequently than their non-Black peers — 3.5 years versus just over 5 years on average, according to a recent survey conducted by Valence, a platform that connects and empowers Black professionals, and management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates. Almost half of Black tech professionals feel switching jobs is the only way for them to achieve career growth.
“We don’t have the legacy — the uncles or elders that have come before us,” says Guy Primus, CEO of Valence. “The numbers [of Black talent] in Silicon Valley have been so minuscule that we don’t have anyone that has come from our community that we can relate to or actually understand what is expected of us and how to navigate.”
Read More: Workers of color and LGBTQ employees face healthcare inequity regardless of income
Technology decision makers have a blueprint they’re following that includes tapping into Ivy League networks and other institutions to recruit top talent, according to Primus. However, this strategy leads to dangerous biases that set the tone for Black workers in the tech space.
“The unfortunate thing is we have been excluded because we aren’t at those schools in enough numbers to allow us to become members of that community,” he says. “So there’s a bias — it’s not an explicit bias or a conscious bias, but there’s a bias in terms of hiring and getting people [of color] into the tech industry.”
And once Black employees are hired, they’re not always given the same opportunities to advance, the survey found. Black tech professionals with 10 to 20 years of experience are promoted about half as often as their non-Black counterparts with the same years of experience and receive only 3 promotions over that time, compared to more than five for their non-Black peers.
Black workers also face higher rates of unfair treatment, the leading cause of turnover among this group. More than a third of Black employees left a job because of unfair treatment, the survey found. This has serious financial consequences for businesses: the average full replacement cost of a tech employee is $144,000 per person, according to the survey, which includes lost productivity, recruiting costs and salaries. Unfairness-based turnover in US tech companies among Black talent costs the industry approximately $1.2 billion dollars a year.
Read More: This telehealth platform is training physicians and benefit managers to provide better healthcare for BIPOC employees
In order to begin fixing turnover rates and making work more inclusive and equitable, it’s imperative to address and begin fixing the information disparity that exists between Black and non-Black employees, Primus says.
One way to do this is to foster better relationships between hiring managers and Black employees, Primus says. While 78% of white or non-black professionals prioritize these relationships, only 61% of Black professionals know that it’s important to build these connections.
Diversity in the tech space must be something employers invest in today, if they want to be successful in the future, Primus says.
“As the global economy diversifies, if [companies] aren’t paying attention to those market segments, it’s at their own risk,” Primus says. “The people to help navigate need to be at the top. They need to be sitting around the boardroom table. They need to be sitting at the C-suite and they need to be filling the pipeline behind those leaders to ensure that that knowledge base continues.”