Why Women And Minorities Are The Future Of Tech
The tech industry is dominated by men and has been widely criticized for its lack of racial diversity. For the millennial generation, which is larger and more diverse than any generation before them, this lack of diversity is a real business problem.
However, many believe that the landscape is beginning to change. Below, some of the people at the forefront of the battle to change it discuss why they, in partnership with others, created the Tech Opportunity Fund to increase educational access and support diversity in the ever-growing world of technology.
Women And Minorities Were Pioneers Of Early Tech
Jessica Mitsch, the executive director of The Iron Yard Code School, begins by noting that women, men, and people of color all played a role in the birth of computer science and technology, and that all of them still deserve a seat at the table today.
Rodney Sampson, head of diversity and inclusion initiatives at TechSquare Labs, points out some of the specific people who influenced the industry. “Throughout history, minorities and women such as Dr. Philip Emeagwali, Katherine Johnson and others have been the inventors of technology.”
So why, over the years, has tech landscape become so homogenous? Sampson points to a lack of education. “We should be able to walk through the halls of every elementary, middle, high-school and college in the country and learn about the technological contributions of all Americans, particularly men and women of color,” he says.
All Demographics Should Be Represented
In the modern world, everyone uses technology — including, of course, women and people of color. As they are users and consumers of technology, they should also be involved in the creation processes.
“For tech to continue to grow and thrive, the industry has to build with the perspectives of all that it serves,” Mitsch explains. Yet she points out that while women comprise 47% of the total U.S. workforce and make up to 85% of consumer purchases, they only hold 25% of professional tech occupations.
Corey Shaw is a graduate of The Iron Yard — and also an African American who has personally encountered (and overcome) obstacles due to his race. “Many tech companies are realizing that in order for them to grow, they must go beyond the ‘one size fits all’ mindset and tailor to each market segment,” Shaw says. “Therefore, representing a diverse workforce is even more critical because the best products and services are created for individuals who want to see a reflection of their own particular style and communities.”
There Is A Lot of Wasted Talent Out There
“In short, women and minorities are underutilized powerhouses of tech talent,” says Mitsch. “The tech workforce is humongous and currently, isn’t representative of the vast majority of people who use technology to navigate their daily lives. This imbalance is both a business and cultural problem.”
As demand continues to grow for talented technical workers, many companies are already struggling to find qualified candidates. “Not maximizing and engaging more than half of the working population will only exacerbate this problem,” Mitsch notes.
Plus, research backs up the theory that diverse teams outperform homogeneous groups. Sampson says, “Per McKinsey, equitable representation, especially when minorities and women are involved at the highest level of an organization (i.e. cofounders, board, advisors, investors, c-suite, etc.), has proven to drive increased economic output. 19% when women are included. 35% when ethnic minorities are included.”