There are many great initiatives taking place throughout the tech industry designed to foster an environment of collaboration and a sense of unity and inclusion among peers. While these seem like obvious things that anyone might expect to find in any company, historically, this has not necessarily been the case.
The harmonious virtues of a unified and collaborative workforce notwithstanding, there are many benefits that are inherent with conducting business with a culturally diverse team.
Thankfully, initiatives like Black Girls CODE are looking to tear down those walls by introducing young girls of different ethnic backgrounds to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects.
BGC’s goal is a simple one: “To increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields.” To some, changing the status quo of an entire industry may seem to be a daunting task – the truth is, all it takes to peak a child’s interest is for parents to actively take steps to endear their children to STEM subjects. Doing so can be as simple as signing them up for an after school educational program or an online technology course.
Among other programs, BGC uses hackathons to inspire girls interested in technology and games to find creative ways of resolving issues within their community. Hackathons are more than about coding; while at the event, girls learn what it takes to brainstorm as a group to determine what it is they want to achieve, work collaboratively to come up with a design, and work with a mentor over the course of a weekend to help bring their app to life. At the end of the weekend, the teams showcase what they were able to develop using the skills they learned at the hackathon and more importantly, receive insightful feedback from a panel of judges.
As any parent knows, when it comes to helping a child develop a passion for a particular hobby or interest, it’s important that they see the results of their hard work and receive praise and constructive criticism on their projects. Hackathons, like the ones hosted by organizations like Black Girls CODE and their partners are crucial events for fueling a child’s passion because they are able to witness their ideas come to life over the course of just one weekend and leave feeling proud (and maybe even a little surprised) at what they were able to accomplish.
Why Diversity in the Tech Industry is Important
With the tech sector growing as quickly as it is, there are many fields that will soon experience a gap between the number of qualified applicants and the growing number of positions available. Inspiring a new generation of young women to become leaders in STEM related careers not only helps to bridge that gap, but brings much needed diversity and a different perspective to the field.
Currently, the lack of diversity in professionals working in the tech industry is likely most apparent in the epicenter of the tech world: Silicon Valley. Though people of Latino descent make up nearly a third of the city’s population, only 3% of tech professionals are Latino. Additionally, only 13% of computer engineers working in Silicon Valley are female. Increased globalization dictates that in order for firms to remain competitive internationally, these disparities in human capital must be addressed.
The real importance of increasing diversity goes well-beyond the prospect of grossing high international sales. The fact is, technology is a global commodity used by people of widely different backgrounds – it therefore stands to reason that people from all backgrounds be able to contribute to its production equally.
Sadly, the tech industry still has some serious progress to make in terms of diversity. Hopefully, through the efforts of organizations like Black Girls CODE, Hack the Hood, Code2040 and more, kids from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds will now have access to the tools and training that will allow them to pursue a rewarding career in tech. Where once it may have appeared as though all doors were shut, it’s high time that all aspiring and creative young minds have the same access to the tech industry as everyone else.