Introducing Tech Workforce Diversity Initiatives to the Tapia Conference (Part 2)

By Ivan F. Gonzalez, Ph.D.

This is the second half of a two-part recap of a panel on New Diversity Interventions for the Tech Workforce & Entrepreneurs that took place during the 2014 Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference. For more information on the participants’ background and their initiatives can be found here.

Educating a new generation of tech-savvy minorities

Google’s Vice President of Engineering, Dr. Stu Feldman, kicked off the interactive portion of the panel by telling the crowded room that he was part of the first college-grad generation in his family. He had very early access to “a computer [that] took the whole room” and he went to great universities, paid by them and by the nation, not by his parents. He thanks those opportunities for allowing him to have a very successful career in technology, from writing “Make” at Bell laboratories, to Google’s vice-presidency of engineering. How can more diverse and talented people can gain access to those opportunities in tech?

One of the reasons for low representation of minorities in tech, in Gregorio Rojas’s experience, is the lack of technology at home. By targeting adults, his Sabio Bootcamp iniative is not only adding diversity to the workforce today; but those adults will come home with their laptop computers and talk about database development or javascripts in front of their kids, exposing minority youth to technology.

Similarly, Lab Daze, a reality show which features Clemson University’s Human-Centered Computing Lab, showcases the life of African American computer scientists, inspiring future computer scientists by example. But role models and familiarity with technology are only part of the answer.

Education needs to be good, accessible, and affordable.

The Kapor Center, a venture capitalist group that fosters diverse entrepreneurship, coordinates summits at the White House and other spaces to discuss about basic guiding principles: how to build inclusive computer science programs, the best practices for teaching, and to keep up-to-date with technology. Their educational effort also builds safeties in place to make sure that when kids finish a program there is a program there to goafterwards.

Building an ecosystem of diversity in technology and entrepreneurship

The panel showcased local, national, and international initiatives strengthening the diversity ecosystem: the AAEIT summit in Atlanta is connecting entrepreneurs of the African-American community with tech-savvy grad students; Sabio Bootcamp graduates developers that learn to work in diverse teams and value diversity-rich environments; the Kapor Center intervenes locally and also nationally by acquiring a very colorful portfolio, gathering and sharing best practices, and offering technical advice among its partners; and Manos Accelerator is trying to create a hub of US Latino and Latin American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, reaching entrepreneurs from Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, Mexico City, and soon Peru, Colombia, and Brazil.

Additionally, the Kapor Center strengthens the diversity ecosystem by building long-lasting partnerships with programs like Manos Accelerator, Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM), Latino Startup Alliance (LSA), and other diversity initiatives. The idea is that long-lasting partnerships will produce coordinated actions that amplify individual efforts.

What is next in diversity for tech and entrepreneurship?

Dr. Roca from DiverseScholar reminded us that we were learning about the “cutting edge” of diversity interventions for the tech workforce and entrepreneurs; two of the featured groups (Manos Accelerator and Sabio Bootcamp) are in their first year. At the same time —due to the limitations intrinsic to a panel— we did not hear that much about some hidden types of diversity, certainly missing from the discussion where the low representation of the disabled community, and the access problem for first-generation college students. Even if though some first-generation college students may be white, they are still facing challenges when it comes to learning to code.

we are about building long partnerships because one finger can point, but a whole bunch of fingers is a fist and it can hit - Arguello

The new diversity interventions for the tech workforce and entrepreneurs panel was a snapshot of the new wave of diversity interventions that are arriving to Silicon Valley and other technological epicenters, but the featured initiatives are not the only ones shaping the future of diversity in the tech and entrepreneurial world. The Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) targets students and faculty to increase the number of minorities successfully transitioning into computing-based careers in academia, while the MVMT50 coalition of the SXSW Interactive Festival (formerly Blacks In Tech) highlights the impact African Americans have in shaping innovation and growing their respective industries. Meanwhile, Startout focuses in fostering LGBT entrepreneurs to create a more diverse tech leadership, and LATISM empowers Latinos with the tools they need to transform their communities by integrating community and networking resources. The Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology (CMD-IT) focus on African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and People with Disabilities, engaging them in computing and information technology and promoting innovation. Joined by the Latino Startup Alliance that just became a national non-profit, and by the DiversiTech community, those initiatives are integral part of the diversity ecosystem and will shape the future in diversity for tech and entrepreneurship.

Ivan Fernando Gonzalez is a Colombian-Peruvian freelance science writer in Richland, Washington. His writings, community projects, and pictures can be found at www.IvanFGonzalez.com. This article was copy edited by Diana Crow. Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

The citation for this article is:
I.F. Gonzalez (2015) Introducing Tech Workforce Diversity Initiatives to the Tapia Conference (Part 2). DiverseScholar 6:1


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Published 31-Dec-2015