The Impact of Tech Layoffs on DEI Initiatives

The tech industry is the generator of great wealth and a contributor to economic growth. The industry has provided trillions of dollars in opportunities to entrepreneurs and investors around the world, and it has offered a pathway to a better life for millions.

The last two years haven’t been kind to the tech industry. Many companies and their partners are struggling against strong economic headwinds resulting from the post-COVID recovery and geopolitical instability. While tech companies continue to generate profits, their operating costs are going up. The biggest impediments to performance and growth: Inflation, interest rates, automation, and general uncertainty.

In 2023, the tech industry laid off more than 260,000 jobs, with many job losses going uncounted. The downsizing rate more than doubled compared to 2022, and the trend is continuing into 2024. We’re at the beginning of the year, and tech companies across the industry are already planning more job cuts in their pursuit of “optimization” and “efficiency.”

Some of the downsizing is justified to control costs and maintain profitability. However, the departments often first in line for cuts – marketing, operations, administration – tend to have the highest numbers of women and people of color, leading to these layoffs disproportionately affecting minorities. This is ironic since the tech industry has been a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.

In this episode of Changing Channels, host Larry Walsh is joined by David Lee, a software engineer turned corporate transformation advisor and DEI advocate, to discuss the layoff trend. Lee, who is also the author of “The Only One in the Room: The Unwritten Rules of Being Black in Tech,” shares his insights on the reasons behind the layoff trend and its impact on the tech industry’s progress towards achieving its diversity objectives.

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