Over the last few years I’ve witnessed the movement to include more women in the technology space and the push to invite women to play a larger role in the industry. It is great to see people like Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Ursula Burns, and others lead large companies and demonstrate the progress we’ve made.
At the same time, what I have not seen is the push to increase the number of minorities, men and women, in the tech space. I don’t see as much on the subject in the mainstream media and social channels. While this is one of my passions to help address I’m curious to why this issue doesn’t seem to get the attention it needs.
Some would say the recent announcements by Apple, Google, and other large successful tech companies revealing the demographics of their workforce and pledging to make changes is a great start to resolve the issue. While I agree that it is a start I’m not so sure that these organizations know how to solve the problem.
When I think about this there are a couple of things they could do to make an impact:
Recruit new hires from HBCUs – I’m an engineering graduate from a Historical Black College and University (North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University). Most of these institutions are in the southeastern part of the country – specifically in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. These are the schools that produce the largest amount of black men and women graduates in engineering, computer science, and technology. Are these graduates getting the opportunity to interview at the top tech companies in the country? What are the hiring practices and where do these companies recruit?
Increase minority enrollment at top technical universities – If companies continue to hire from places like Harvard, Stanford, Duke, MIT, and Wharton, then the minority population at these institutions need to increase. We need to encourage students to apply to these schools to increase the pool of minority applicants available for new tech jobs. We also need to make sure they have the academic and social support they need as they matriculate through these competitive technical curriculums.
Teach entrepreneurship and technology at an earlier age – Growing up the emphasis was on getting a job so I could take care of myself once I graduated from college. While that is still important I didn’t get the message of ‘creating my own job’ like some of my friends do that don’t look like me. I think an orientation to entrepreneurship in the home where the environment is available to try things, make mistakes, and learn from them would prepare young minorities for the opportunities that could lead to more participation in the tech industry.
Finding ways to provide better access to technology at an early age – For those that don’t have access to technology we need to create and build new technology hubs and centers in the areas where minorities reside. Making sure our schools and public libraries have the latest in technology and the resources to teach and expose young minds to what’s available is critical for minorities to have a technical orientation as they continue to grow and develop. While playing video games at home may be a fun activity, we should encourage our youth to design and build those games – which get them thinking about how those products and services they use every day could be created by them.
Encourage Investors from other industries to invest in minority startups – Not only do we need to increase the opportunities for minorities to enter the tech space, we need capital to fund minority-owned ventures that could employ additional minorities in the workforce. This includes building networks that provide access to funds to help birth new enterprises led by minorities that employ minorities as well. These investments don’t have to all come from the tech space – athletes and entertainers with the means to invest could help by supporting these efforts with capital and media exposure.
Those are my initial thoughts on how to address the issue of minorities in technology. There are people and organizations out there making progress to help eliminate this problem but we have a long way to go.