Following weeks of civil unrest across the country, America is having a reckoning over discrimination. The “new normal” that we are entering has no space for racism, gender inequality, homophobia, or the lack of diversity at the workplace.
As of 2019, the data and tech industry consisted of only 30% women. There is a significant gender gap in tech and data science leadership roles and technical roles. If we were to conduct a root cause analysis of this issue, three significant reasons come out. First, Black and Latino high school/middle school girls lack access to STEM subjects. Secondly, data science is a fairly new field that lacks representation. Lastly, there are very few university and government programs that provide resources and training opportunities to a wider audience.
Diversity improves employee engagement, increases company confidence, and attracts new talent. A more diverse organization will be successful in the long run. In today’s world, diversity includes, but is not limited to, gender, race, sex, demographic, and economics.
Here are four steps any community can take to improve their diversity index.
The majority of the work happens at a local community level. As an individual, you can volunteer for STEM-focused nonprofits like TechGirlz and Philly Tech Sistas by supporting their educational programs. I cannot think of any bigger resource that is untapped right now than our vast talent pool. If you are an organization, I encourage you to pledge to hire a diverse talent pool from community colleges and high schools. Recently, Vanguard announced its efforts to support historically Black colleges and universities that are disproportionately affected due to COVID-19.
I encourage local universities and government agencies to start building partnerships with these grassroots nonprofits focused on data and tech. I understand that social justice will take time and some heavy resources, but I would like us to focus on a simpler task at hand — giving them a sneak peek into the world of STEM. Temple University and Penn have distinguished community STEM programs that provide education and opportunities.
Throughout my career, I have relied heavily on having strong mentors who helped me get a strong start to my career and provided honest feedback.
Some of us are shy to approach a mentor. Blame this on the lack of opportunities, imposter syndrome, or the lack of confidence — it is clear that we need a network of mentors who are supporting every group. It is about time representation of minority groups becomes a norm within the tech world.
If there is anything that you can do right now, at this moment, then provide mentorship to these grassroots communities. Women in Data‘s founding membership offers the opportunity to provide free mentorship service that will connect professional women to mentees.
The Women in Data program offers a safe space if you are someone who is anxious about reaching out to mentors. As a regional sponsorship lead for Women in Data, I had the privilege to help students find the correct set of mentors.
This “new normal” is focused heavily on technology and data. The future of the workplace will rely on tech experts and data specialists. It is our duty to pave the path for the next generation of a diversified workforce. The starting line of the race must be equal for it to be fair. There are free educational resources, like Women in Data‘s exclusive membership, that provide access to virtual study groups where the community can learn and network at the same time.
Partnering with local nonprofits focused on increasing data literacy and diversity is a step in the right direction. Creating a career pipeline for diverse groups within the community will be the goal.