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What Causes Voluntary Turnover in Tech? Unfairness

We’ve all read the statistics about the lack of diversity in the tech sector. The underrepresentation of women, Black, Latinx, and Native American tech professionals in both technical and non-technical positions. The even smaller percentages of women and underrepresented racial groups in leadership positions at top companies and small startups alike. The near invisibility of venture-backed CEOs who are not male or White (or, occasionally, Asian).

In addition to the statistics, a steady stream of blog posts, articles, and stories shared in close circles have detailed the unwelcoming, hostile, and even toxic environments which are driving out tech workers from diverse backgrounds. But there has been limited data on how widespread these experiences are and how they might be related to retention across tech companies.

At the Kapor Center for Social Impact, we wanted to investigate whether tech company culture is driving turnover, creating a revolving door for underrepresented groups, and contributing to the lack of diversity in tech.

Between December 2016 and January 2017, we collaborated with Harris Poll to conduct a survey with a nationally-representative sample of over 2,000 professionals who had left a job in a technology-related industry or function within the last 3 years. The Tech Leavers Study is a first-of-its-kind national study examining why people voluntarily left their tech jobs.

Here is what we found:

So what can companies do? Here are 3 recommendations based on our study findings for ways companies can address unfairness:

1. Implement Comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion Strategies. Starting with unequivocal leadership from the CEO and executive team, implement strategies for achieving diversity and inclusion across the entire company, from product development and marketing to internal culture, staffing and leadership.

2. Create Inclusive Cultures. Define core values, develop a code of conduct, and strive to continuously evaluate and improve the culture by conducting regular employee surveys, examining data by demographic groups, and swiftly addressing areas of concern.

3. Develop Effective and Fair Management Processes. Audit performance management and compensation practices for potential biases and implement management training and bias-mitigating strategies (including people operations technology tools) across all stages of the employment lifecycle.

To download the full report, read subgroup reports, and view the press release, check out the website at:

@kaporcenter #techleavers

This report was sponsored in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation, and was conducted in collaboration with Harris Poll. We would like to thank the participants for sharing their stories and experiences to contribute to this important research.