A new initiative has taken birth in Silicon Valley, tech center of America, working to patch the diversity divide. Project Include wants more women and minority groups in the high tech industry that fuels the U.S. economy.

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and bethanye McKinney Blount are co-founders of Project Include. They and their team see a problem with the numbers. Right now, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, executives in high tech are 80 percent men and only 20 percent are women. Of overall high tech employees, 64 percent are men and 36 percent are women. Both are wider gender gaps compared to the overall private industry.

There is also diversity gap where only 7.3 percent of employees are African American and only 8.0 percent are Hispanic. Smaller numbers than the overall private industry and national demography.

Part of the problem is the pipeline from STEM (science technology engineering mathematics) education to jobs. According to a 2015 report from the National Science Foundation, in 2012 women received just 18.2 percent of computer science degrees and 19.2 percent of engineering degrees. However, a even bigger problem exists.

“Retention of employees is huge, helping support people as their careers develop is huge,” Blount says. “And the fact that women and other underrepresented groups are shoved out of technology companies, functionally, in their careers. There’s this giant drop off where women, in particular, leave.”

Center for Work-Life Policy’s data shows that although 74 percent of women in technology companies “love their work,” 56 percent leave during what should be the middle of their careers. Of those who leave, 38 percent left due to a “hostile macho culture,” when many still working reported feeling stalled or left without a clear career path.

According to Pao, this divide doesn’t make business sense.

“Diversity brings out much better results. We’ve seen McKinsey reports that show that companies that have diversity around gender and race have a 35 percent likelihood of better financial performance than average and we’ve also seen that it brings out better ideas.”

Check out Fernando’s interview with Pao and Blount to find out more on how they are working with Silicon Valley companies to show how those organizations can make immediate diversity decisions, and how it could improve their business.

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