If you and I attend a tech event this week one of the topics that would inevitably surface is the need for more diversity in technology. In a recent Forbes article titled “How Do We Increase Diversity In The Tech Industry?”, Rebecca O. Bailey discusses the lack of Latinos, African Americans and women in the “Innovation Economy.” This is important to note because the Innovation Economy brings with it the potential and tools to address poverty, inequality, corruption, police brutality, and a host of other issues that eats away at society’s connective tissue.
So I ask you – who is responsible for getting us to a space where consumers are represented amongst the makers of the products that generate billions annually? Whose shoulders carry the weight of employment equality and access in the tech world?
It can be heavy stuff if you go down rabbit holes, so I propose a three-part answer in order of who can have the biggest impact – those already in it, those wanting to get in it, those running it.
Employees of all colors, genders, and faiths at tech companies can do a host of things to bring more diversity into their organizations. But please keep one thing very present – if you are Latino, African American, or a woman you carry a bigger responsibility than anyone else. We can be agents of change, model how to break in, and leveraging our resources to create access. As an employee of a tech company, here is how you can do your part:
- Offer small-group tours of the office to nonprofit who focus on tech and youth
- Serve as a mentor for community organizations and nonprofits
- Speak at panels, conferences, and host workshops where you can share your skills
Community groups and nonprofits need you, and the youths they serve can put this world on its head with the proper inspiration and curiosity. Ask your friends or think about the organizations who you have connected with during your career, and reach out to their communications or programs person (Check with the proper departments and people before inviting groups into your office)
For those interested in starting a career in technology, be it students or adults already in the workforce, making it happen for you is your responsibility. Meaning rest assured that there is a small army of us working to open up the gates, but the reality is that there is a deficit of talent. Don’t get me wrong, we have some amazingly talented Latinos, African Americans and women who are setting the tech world on fire. We just don’t have enough of them. So check out a few tips on how you can start a career in tech:
- Go to local meet-ups and tech events to network
- Once you have a sense of your local tech landscape, ask for one-on-one informational interviews
- Build up an online brand using Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook strategically and wisely
Speaking as someone who wants more diversity in tech and who works to make it happen, it’s encouraging when a students asks for advice, suggestions, or tips on how to break into tech. Don’t be afraid to ask for career advice, it’s as simple as asking someone to grab a coffee. Just make sure you come prepared.
The C-Suite and management teams of tech companies can and should invest in diversity because of the wealth of untapped potential, ideas, talent, and passion. Homogeneity and same-ness are not likely drivers of innovation, but different experiences and perspective are. Breathe easy though, this does not mean an infrastructure overhaul or a dramatic shift in culture. There are realistic, smart efforts that company leaders can make to bring proper representation and relevance to the workplace:
- Talk with the leadership team and employees in small groups as a way to build awareness and to open up dialogue around the topic
- Allow employees to step up as leaders, to propose solutions, and encourage them to be mentors for the community
- Connect with nonprofits and community groups as a way to create a pipeline of talent
Let’s be honest, approaching this in its entirety can be pretty daunting. If we acknowledge that, then we can begin to carve out the ways we can actually do our part to create more access and diversity in technology. Think about what impact you can have and start taking steps forward, remember that it’s much bigger than just having more coders of color – it’s about massive wealth gaps, ongoing cycles of poverty, and having a seat at the table.
On my end I do this by volunteering as a tech mentor with local nonprofits and facilitating workshops and trainings. Most of the topics focus on technology basics, digital tools, leveraging social media as a professional development tool, and website creation and database management. I also make myself available to teens in the programs who want help getting their LinkedIn and resumes in shape.