The buzzword in the media is the lack of diversity in tech. A Google search will return statistics and think pieces about how an industry dedicated to innovation adheres to archaic notions of a woman’s place. Silicon Valley in particular has come under brimstone and fire for its lack of diversity, prompting some companies to reveal their diversity receipts/reports as proof that they are trying. Ever since the mid-1980s, men have dominated the tech industry, and there hasn’t been much space for women, people of color, or folks of different physical and mental abilities.
A brief montage of statistics: there will be 1.4 million jobs available in tech by 2020, and women are on course to filing on 3% of them. Men make up 92% of software developers. Sixty six percent of girls in middle school are interested in coding, and the number falls to 4% by senior year of high school. Women earn 56% of bachelor degrees in the U.S., but only 12% of women graduate with a degree in Computer Science. Women currently make up 30% of the tech industry, and even less are in leadership positions. We could go on and on. Everyone knows that there is a lack of diversity in tech, but fewer people know why they should care.
What is being done
Because diversity in tech has become such a buzz in the media, many coding bootcamps provide funding for women and minorities who want to take a class. For example, Course Report’s self-proclaimed “definitive list of programming bootcamp scholarships” lists over 30 bootcamps that provide partial or full scholarships for its students. Likewise, Gainesville Dev Academy is partnered with Career Source of North Central Florida to provide funding through STEM Ready for those who are not in a financial position to take advantage of our coding bootcamp. So, step one to improving diversity in tech—making a coding education to women and minorities—check.
In terms of community organizing, many organizations dedicated to diversity in tech are on the rise. Black Girls Code, Women Who Code, and Lesbians Who Tech are all providing a space for minorities to feel welcome in the world of technology. Each is dedicated to increasing visibility and providing resources and opportunities for its members. Namely, Lesbians Who Tech provides the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship for LGBTQ women and gender non-conforming folks who want to learn to code.
There’s also movement on the hiring front as well. Apps like Blendoor and Entelo are dedicated to reduce bias in tech hiring. Blendoor, for example, hides the gender and race/ethnicity of the applicant to ensure that the company hires an applicant based on merit alone. So, there is some movement towards increasing diversity in tech.
What needs to be done
Hiring more women and minorities is one step in the right direction, but keeping them is another initiative entirely. Stats show that women and people of color are more likely to quit their jobs in tech. Women don’t have that many role models as they don’t hold that many leaderships, and likewise for people of color. Many of these companies that preach diversity in tech do not have much in the way of a culture of retention for the very people they fought to hire. Which then brings us back to square one.
While companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Intel are actively trying to recruit more diversity in their ranks, but the going in slow so far. To be effective, diversity ought to be integral to the culture, rather than a buzzword or initiative. Kelli Dragovich said it best in her article “Cracking the Code on Diversity in Tech,” “Instead of competing over the same limited pool of diverse talent, the tech industry should come together and create new, larger pools. Building programs that support STEM education, vocational schools and skills training for underrepresented groups will grow the pipeline of ore diverse potential candidates for everyone down the line.”
Why diversity in tech matters
Because, yes, diversity in tech does matter. To ensure that everyone’s needs are met, everyone must have a hand in creating the future. And coding is the language of the future. (Which makes sense. Have you seen the video of Atlas, the robot who can basically do anything you can do but better?)
Further, with the number of open tech jobs (remember, 1.4 million by 2020), we need more people in the workforce to fill them. According to Tech Republic, “This marks the fifth year of consecutive growth for the industry, with tech accounting for 7.1% of the U.S. GDP and 11.6% of total overall payroll in the private sector.” If we only depend on a certain segment of the population to fill these positions then America’s economy will become stunted. And America bases so much of its identity on being the best, which renders diversity in tech a necessity.
Even more, companies dedicated to diversity in tech are more likely to show stable growth and an increase in revenue. According to a study by Mckinsey, gender- and ethnically-diverse companies are 15% and 35% more likely to outperform other companies, respectively. The same studies show that “In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.” So diversity is key in tech communities, but also, think about that money, honey.
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