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Despite diversity push, tech has a discrimination problem

A new survey from Indeed shows that 24 percent of tech workers experience discrimination at their current company.

Tech is struggling to become more diverse.
Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images

Yes, discrimination in the tech industry is a real thing.

Whether for race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age or gender, nearly a quarter of 1,002 tech workers surveyed in December by job site Indeed complained about unfair treatment in their current companies, according to a report out Tuesday.

"These results should be seen as a wake-up call to the industry that simply striving to hire diverse talent is not enough -- culture and attitude need to be addressed," said Raj Mukherjee, senior vice president of product at Indeed.

The topic of diversity in the tech is a hot one thanks to the increased scrutiny on the fact that the industry is, in large part, dominated by white men. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies now regularly release diversity reports, highlighting low percentages of women and minority employees, with few moving up the management chain.

Despite vows to improve the situation, the needle has moved little in the past few years.

As far as discrimination goes, chipmaker Qualcomm settled a gender discrimination suit in July for $19.5 million. The US Department of Labor sued software and services provider Palantir in September over claims of discrimination against Asian job applicants.

According to the survey, more women said they'd experienced discrimination than men (29 percent versus 21 percent). Women surveyed were also more likely to witness non-inclusionary behavior -- 45 percent said they had.

In addition, more Asian and nonwhite tech workers said they'd experienced discrimination than white workers (32 percent versus 22 percent).

It's an issue that looks like it will continue to persist. A quarter surveyed said the companies they worked for weren't taking meaningful actions to recruit and retain diverse tech talent. Meanwhile, 77 percent of respondents said it was very or quite important to work in a diverse company.

While large tech companies like Intel have rolled out extensive initiatives to increase diversity and curtail the type of behavior that makes for a hostile work environment, those efforts aren't universal throughout the industry.

In December, early stage investment firm First Round Capital's State of Startups 2016 report showed that only 14 percent of startup founders surveyed said their companies had formal plans or policies for addressing diversity and inclusion.

That matters because studies have shown that diverse teams lead to better problem solving. And in tech, solving problems is often the name of the game.

"Innovative products that change the world, and delight users and customers simply cannot be built without taking into account diverse perspectives, experiences and backgrounds," Mukherjee told CNET.

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