Four multiethnic young professional coworkers business startup gen z team students working on project listening to female latin leader teacher in contemporary office with devices. Diversity concept.

Almost 6 in 10 (59%) U.S. businesses struggle to retain diverse tech talent, while just slightly more (62%) said that current economic conditions are slowing their DEI initiatives, according to Wiley Edge’s 2023 Diversity in Tech report. In addition, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Gen Z tech workers report challenges landing their first job. Given that Gen Z is the most diverse generation in the workforce, reversing these trends will be essential for companies looking to bridge the digital skills gap.

To start with, companies need to make it easier for entry-level tech employees to get their first jobs. More than one-third (35%) of Gen Z tech workers said it took longer than six months to land their first role. This may be due in part to hiring practices – while 90% of businesses have a hard time recruiting for entry-level tech roles, a full 45% said they hire exclusively through top-ranked universities.

There is some movement away from formal education requirements. While 72% of businesses always require tech role candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, 17% have cut the number of roles that require a degree, mainly so they can consider candidates with alternative credentials and expand their talent pool. In addition, 58% of businesses are thinking about dropping degree requirements in the next year.

Many companies have also implemented recruitment initiatives specifically aimed at increasing diversity. Anti-bias hiring strategies, including anti-bias training, blind resume reviews, and requesting diverse shortlists from recruiters are also being used more than in the past. Of companies that have implemented at least one anti-bias strategy, 71% report a positive impact on workforce diversity. Other initiatives include updating their benefits packages, advertising roles in different places, offering flexible working policies, and providing pay transparency. 

Remote work can also increase diversity. The survey found that increasing the number of remote roles leads to greater gender diversity (78%), ethnic diversity (44%), socio-economic diversity (32%), and neurodiversity (26%).

Of course, recruiting is one thing, but retention is another, and the survey suggests that companies can do more on the latter front. Almost 7 in 10 (69%) Gen Z tech workers reported feeling uncomfortable in a role. While the reasons for discomfort vary, many respondents cited a lack of diversity, not having a sense of belonging, and an unwelcoming company culture. Despite this, 71% of Gen Z tech workers said their experience in the industry has been positive or mostly positive so far.

These are just a few of the results of the extensive survey. For more insights into Gen Z, diversity, and how to attract and retain the next generation of tech talent, download the full report.