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Diversity in Technology Industry

Last night I went to a Black History Month Celebration/ diversity panel put on by a Blacks in Tech group at the local Googleplex where everyone-- with the exception of five people and the hosts of the event-- in a room of at least 80 people was black. A few were within a couple of generations from the African continent or the UK. Used to being one of a few POC and often the only WOC in professional technology spaces I was stunned.

Stunned in a "Wow, who knew there were so many black professionals this space?" way. Topically the panel's conversation wasn't so much focused on specific technology. The panel focused on careers in tech entrepreneurship and promoting the values of Science, Tech, Engineering, Math (STEM) endeavors to the youth. The message was 'This is where we are. Blacks are overwhelmingly consumers of tech products but there are not many involved the creation and building of technology and their applications. We need to do better at helping each other grow in STEM careers, and building STEM awareness should start in the home, ideally to youth before they reach the 3rd grade.'

I am glad that discussions like that are happening. However I also feel that they tend to lead to obvious conclusions with no actionable plan to improve the numbers of black professionals in these fields. See the example below.

Parents make the extra effort to educate your kids!
The problem with this edict is that this completely ignores the fact that the parents themselves don't have the STEM education, along with socioeconomic factors in play which lead to parents not being there in the first place.

With exceptions of course, these kids are predominantly raised in working class or lower middle class households headed by single parents or a guardian. Those parents need to work constantly just to make ends meet and cannot afford tutors and tech camps while they are working and so kids are left to their own devices... unless there's some kind of accessible after school community program to engage in to 'keep the kids off the streets'. Many of these community programs available only offer basic activities like sports or games with the option to do homework or whatever until the parents get done with work.

Going above and beyond is not stressed to these programs by the parents and not stressed to the parents by those running the programs, due to funds, limited time, or interest. That's something that needs to shift before any growth can truly occur.
What are your thoughts?


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's a difficult problem. I know for me personally, it's mainly a matter of time. My church runs an after school program for kids that I'd like to help out with, but it's not like I can leave work at 3 pm to hang out and help them with their homework. I can think of one-off stuff that I could do, like judging science fairs, but the long-term stuff can be hard to do while you're in a non-teaching STEM career.
Feb. 9th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
I agree. It's an issue requiring a concerted effort by many people in our communities.
Feb. 8th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
one quick thought is that you don't need a degree, tutors or tech camps (wtfbbq) to get into tech. you do need to be part of the social networks in tech though. and you mostly won't gain access to them through 'tech camps'.

Feb. 9th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
To clarify, the tutors and tech camps I referred to are for meant for the kids with little to no STEM exposure. I wasn't implying that working parents needed to use them for themselves to understand STEM.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC)
I was one of the speakers that night @ Google, I spoke about NSBE - the largest student-run org in America w/ over 30k members. I think due to the media and how they (don't) portray Black people in a certain light, sometimes we get the idea that there aren't many Blacks in Tech. Fortunately in the Northern CA, it's hard to forget there are Blacks in Tech. There are tons of meetups, groups, orgs, and events surrounding just that.

And NSBE's mission is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. So there are some people out there fighting the good fight ;) parents should get their kids into NSBE, and fast. The younger kids and collegiate students get the most out of the org.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )