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Tech's diversity issues could cost it $16 billion a year

Unfair treatment at work is a big reason tech workers leave. It affects underrepresented groups and it's costing the industry, a study shows.

Turns out there's a cost when tech workers leave over unfair treatment.
Zhang Peng, LightRocket via Getty Images

Tech workers often leave their jobs over unfair treatment and it could be costing the industry $16 billion a year.

The Kapor Center for Social Impact released a study Thursday showing how unfair treatment through bullying, racism and sexism repels people from their jobs -- and there's a price to pay for those exits.

"Tech companies spend millions of dollars finding, recruiting and onboarding top-level talent, but the data show they must focus real attention on retaining the talent they've got," said Allison Scott, chief research officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, in a statement.

The study surveyed more than 2,000 people who left tech jobs in the past three years. It found that 78 percent of those surveyed experienced some type of unfair behavior or mistreatment. One in 10 women experienced unwanted sexual attention. One quarter of men and women of color said they'd experienced stereotyping. And the group most likely to be passed over for a promotion? Women of color-- one third reported the experience.

Eventually, many of these people leave their jobs. Underrepresented men of color were most likely to leave because of that unfair treatment. Of those 2,000 people surveyed, 37 percent listed unfair treatment as a major reason for why they left.

Replacing those employees is what lands tech with a $16 billion bill every year.

"There is a high cost to bad culture, and this is a self-inflicted wound," the study said.