“The movement for tech inclusion has become the most important driver for economic progress and opportunity in Black America,” - CNN Commentator Van Jones.
Technology is a major engine for economic growth for the US economy. The technology industry has the opportunity to close the income gap by including marginalized communities in their workforce. Currently, African Americans represent only 7% of the workforce in US technology companies. Over the next five years, about 1.4 million new tech industry jobs are expected to be created, according to estimates from the Level Playing Field Institute.
Technology companies’ workforce today are not reflective of their audience or customers. These companies blame the recruitment pipeline for their lack of employing people of color. They believe that there aren’t enough Blacks and Hispanics graduating with relevant degrees, and applying for tech jobs. However, according to a recent USA Today analysis, top universities turned out Black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies are hiring them.
As institutions are increasing the number of Blacks with technology degrees, many undergraduates are pursuing lower-paying, lower-status careers despite being well qualified for high positions, according to a recent study conducted by Maya Beasley, Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut. This study examined, “Why do African Americans remain substantially underrepresented in the highest-paying professions, such as science, engineering, information technology, and finance?” Beasley found while there is a multitude of complexity as to why these students chose lower career paths, however the key reasons were: an anticipation of discrimination in particular fields, the racial composition of class, and the available opportunities to network.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Silicon Valley and across the country are challenging the tech industry to focus its innovative energy on building a more diverse workforce. Many Silicon Valley companies have answered the call by investing in diversity recruitment initiatives at historically Black college and University campuses and through other minority programs like CBC Tech 2020 and Code2040. In McKinsey’s Diversity Matters Report they found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to see positive financial returns. Furthermore, these companies see higher returns in innovation, corporate culture, marketing as well as an increase in user base potential. “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) employees help drive the actions in innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas and new companies. Studies show that teams with a wide range of diverse perspectives to draw from increase a company’s performance ability when it comes to problem solving and finding innovative solutions”.