My Quest To Teach

October 12, 2018

Bringing Diversity into Technology Careers

William Jackson 2018

Bringing Diversity into Technology Careers, Being Black and Employed
William Jackson, WordCamp speaker, volunteer,
organizer, blogger, sponsor and advocate
#MyQuestToTeach

National data by Labour and Statistics shows that
People of Color are majoring in computer science,
web development, growing in coding and even game
design. The challenge for People of Color is
finding employment with companies that say they
need talented, qualified and passionate people
of diversity.

Companies nationally fail to look in the right
place like the 100 HBCUs nationally that are
accredited and thriving. HBCUs have the talented
young people that can address the technological
challenges that will be faced in the future. The
truth is that the Unites States does not have the
ability to face all the challenges it faces
nationally and globally with cyber-security, web
development, coding and other areas of technological
need.

Factual data in 2014 showed numbers that some
Social Media sites have several thousand employees,
the number of minorities or People of Color is
minimal. There are complaints against companies
in Silicon Valley and across the nation that People
of Color are not even considered for tech jobs even
if they are qualified and experienced.

Contradictory graduation data from HBCUs says there
is an increased number of graduates with degrees by
Blacks and Hispanics tells a different story from
companies that say there are too few graduating with
degrees in STEM, STEAM, and even STREAM.

National data from sites such as HBCU Connect and
HBCUBuzz shows opportunities are there and that
entrepreneurs are running their own businesses show
that tech skills are being learned, developed, and
adapated by People of Color. As a past STREAM
educator at a Title One and Magnet elementary school
and a past technology instructor at the historic
Edward Waters College, students are excited about
the opportunities to learn all there is to learn in
tech, but companies are not willing to diversify
their work-forces. Companies make very little
investment in HBCUs not seeing the value of these
institutions.

Data from Computing Research Association shows that
4.1% of Bachelor degrees in tech areas were earned
by Blacks and many gained experience to apply their
learning from internships and being entrepreneurs
at HBCU institutions.

The biggest numbers were of Hispanics at 7.7% of
degrees, if you look at cities like Miami, Florida
there are tech conferences exclusively by and for
Hispanics / Latinos, in Texas the same holds true.
In California alone Hispanic tech firms have grown
several percentages fueled by entrepreneurs again.
They may be owned by individuals and families, their
contributions are important to
commerce, trade and sharing technical knowledge.

The increase in collaboration with Hispanics shows
there is a need be filled. So instead of looking
at larger companies that ignore People of Color,
companies that focus on diversity are being started
to fill that need. Hispanics are the fastest growing
demographic in tech companies with women leading.

African Americans are slowly building the growing
infrastructure for creating tech companies headed by
BLERDS (Black Nerds), this is a slow process because
of the lack of corporate role models, internships
and opportunities for real world work and exposure.

Professor Jackson and students from Edward Waters College

Professor Jackson (left) and students from Edward Waters College

That does not mean African Americans are not
influential, they are, but through the confines
of being employed by others and not having the
flexibility or decision making power. Large tech
companies seem so impersonal and do not show
they embrace diversity even though they say they
do. The overall workforce of Blacks makeup 13
percent of tech employers and Hispanics are at
16 percent as found in “Diversity,” the Miami
Times July 2015.

Even though many technology companies claim they
can’t find talent Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push
Coalition says, “companies are not looking in
the right place.” 2014 The other issue is that
non-tech areas are also lacking diversity which
tells a lot about hiring practices.

These practices for filling vacant positions are not
aggressive enough so positions go unfilled or combined
with several departments or individuals. Preventing
opportunities that People of Color can fill.
More youth, teens and young adults are entering into
the tech industry not to just make money, because
they love the professional and social opportunities.
The challenges of specific skill-sets, those that are
in the high end mathematics areas that address
algorithms and interpretation of data. Just as
in Hidden Figures, those with an aptitude for
math are like gold.

This information should help HBCUs adapt their curriculum’s
to teach specific skills so the pipeline from student
to graduate to employee is consistent. Many companies
smaller than Google, IBM and Intel are looking for diversity,
but need to have diversity training to make sure everyone
understands that diversity makes a company more competitive
and attractive to global commerce.
Culture does matter in the technology industry, reading
the article by Cecila King and Todd C. Frankil in The
Washington Post July 22-28 2015.

There are companies like “Yes We Code” a group that
is working to teach 100,00 low income people to write
computer code to be employable and there are others
in many cities. Googling for them helps kids grow
interest in new careers.

One challenge for People of Color is venture-investment
where companies that are mainly white invest in new
companies, but this works by word of mouth and networking.
If People of Color are not at the tables of dialogue and
decision making they miss out, they will only get scrapes
if at the most that. This is another reason why People
of Color need to attend conferences, meetups and workshops.
This is why I take students to FlBlogCon, WordCamp, Bar Camp
and EdCamp conferences in Florida and other states.

Through growing collaborationist HBCUs are encouraging big
companies to offer internships, mentors and even those
that want to work on HBCU campuses to show how the
procees works. HBCU counselors must build relationships
with companies so they can have a foundation that HBCU
students are eager to work with companies and that
HBCUs produce a quality product in its students.

It all starts before the student gets to an HBCU by
having the infrastructure in place and ready to receive
the student. Students of color and culture are looking
to 21st century jobs that allow for growth and the
challenge of critical and higher order thinking. The
challenge is companies seeing the value of PofC and
their contributions to building diversity in their
companies.

Resources:
HBCU Connect – http://hbcuconnect.com
HBCUBuzz – http://hbcubuzz.com
Black In Tech Business
https://www.npr.org/2016/02/28/468483901/being-black-in-the-tech-industry
Spot Light On Black Tech
https://www.npr.org/2013/10/28/241385367/african-americans-in-tech-how-to-get-a-black-steve-jobs
What is behind Black Unemployment
https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/05/25/186609052/for-black-americans-finding-work-an-uphill-battle

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