Strategy

An urgent plea: Give people from underrepresented communities reasons to work in tech

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The tech sector has been shaken by the culmination of factors, that have — in part– been brewing for nearly a decade: a rise in the instances and sophistication of cyber attacks on organizations and our data; a growing skills gap that’s left employers struggling to fill mission-critical roles (job vacancies across all sectors grew by 44% over the summer, compared to the three months prior, and 10% of all open roles are now in the tech sector); and a noticeable lack of diversity within tech companies. However, one of these is, arguably, the cause of the other two. Our sector’s historic unwillingness to bring in prospective workers with nontraditional (non-degree) backgrounds and to hire people from underrepresented backgrounds –women, people of color, those with disabilities, and people from the LGBTQ+ community — and to ensure that they are valued members of teams, with upward workplace mobility, is leaving us exposed. It’s also leaving us without the fresh perspectives and talent we badly need to solve the most pressing tech problems of our day. 

Participating in what’s sometimes coined “performative diversity,” many tech employers have made cursory efforts to hire more diverse people, but these initiatives have largely proven to be unsustained, or have turned out to be nothing more than surface level attempts to fix what is a deeply ingrained industry bias. This bias, as bad as it is for workers, impacts far more than just the makeup of workplaces and the chances that anyone who isn’t a white man will rise through the ranks to tech leadership. This bias has a deeply negative impact on the work itself. In Artificial Intelligence diverse backgrounds and those with diverse thoughts and perspectives on the world) is perpetuating and creating systems that will ultimately cause more discrimination and bias. Algorithms that detect hate speech on social media are a great example of how destructive bias works in practice. A Forbes piece on the discriminatory underbelly of the tech sector states that “Activists, educators, and tech experts are making the case that Instagram’s arbitrary definition of what is “safe” disproportionately impacts members of vulnerable communities. When their content is blocked from the feed, their ability to… benefit from Instagram’s digital economy — is limited.” To sum it up, a truly diverse AI environment would ensure that the very people training the machines and creating the definitions are themselves diverse, and therefore are building tech with inclusivity in mind.  Yet, to date, has the sector given women, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities, and people from other disadvantaged backgrounds the right reasons to want to be here?

Paying lip service to inclusivity

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