In 1976, Apple sold its first personal computer.
More than forty years later, the tech industry has evolved to such granularity that it touches nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The demographics of the people behind that innovation, however, remains tragically stagnant. And while conferences, panels, and workshops across the globe elevate this issue and provide a platform to discuss possible solutions to diversify workforces, the results of these conversations have yet to be realized.
It is no secret that women and minorities are significantly underrepresented in the tech industry across the United States. According to a Fortune Magazine 2015 survey of nine tech titans including Airbnb, Intel, and LinkedIn, women hold one-third of the positions and even less so at a leadership level. In a separate survey that included Apple, Facebook, and Google, African-Americans and Hispanics make up an average of only 7% and 8% of the workforce respectively.
In Washington, DC, we plan to change that. As a top city for women and African-Americans in technology, we are a leader for diversity and primed to become the most inclusive city for tech in the nation. The key? Walking the talk. Here’s how we are getting started.
1. Disparity Transparency
Last year, Washington, DC released its first diversity report revealing the state of the District’s tech inclusion. The Pathways to Inclusion report, published by Mayor Muriel Bowser and The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), outlines a high-level vision to make Washington, DC the nation’s leading city for technology inclusion, while also uncovering the work ahead. Similar to Google, who was the first tech giant to release diversity data, DC invested in being transparent about what work needs to get done.
The results revealed that while Washington, DC is leading the way in employment for women in the tech sector [36%] compared to the national average [26%], there are still disparities. According to the study, 49% of tech workers in DC are white men and 25% are white women; 9% percent are black men, and 8% are black women. DC’s commitment to transparency was a key factor in enabling change.
2. Building The Framework
In order to achieve a holistically diverse economy, fostering an inclusive tech ecosystem is vital. The Mayor’s report reveals significant areas of opportunity, but also serves as a blueprint, lighting the way for the economic community to build programs that make an impact. The city aims to create 5,000 new technology jobs for underrepresented and underemployed workers and help start 500 new technology-based businesses founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs.
Washington, DC is forging a new path toward an inclusive economy, one that supports our thriving tech and innovation ecosystem in a way that creates equitable opportunities for residents in all eight wards. – Mayor Muriel E. Bowser
“Washington, DC is forging a new path toward an inclusive economy, one that supports our thriving tech and innovation ecosystem in a way that creates equitable opportunities for residents in all eight wards.” – Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (Pathways to Inclusion Report, 2017)
The District has already started to create a playbook for inclusion from the launch of In3, the first Inclusive Innovation Incubator at Howard University to BEACON, a network for female entrepreneurs.
3. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel: Use What You Have
Innovation doesn’t begin with an empty slate; it builds upon existing structures. And rather than spend months starting from scratch, the recently launched Pathways Scholarship Program immediately carves a path to employment in tech for the under- and un-employed by pairing together existing programs and organizations.
Developed by the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP), the first Pathways program focuses specifically on technology and addresses deficiencies in technical education and training to eliminate barriers of entry into technical fields. The success of the program depends on the existing work these DC-based organizations are already providing in the same space: ByteBack, In3, Beacon, and MEANS Database paired with established tech institutions Thinkful, Google, and Amazon Web Services,
“The beauty of this program,” says Kevin Morgan, Director of Tech Attraction and Retention at WDCEP, “is that all of these pieces already exist in DC. Through the Tech Inclusion Pathway, we were able to bring the partners together to build a streamlined process of recruitment, selection, resources, training, employment, and ongoing support.”
As technology becomes more ingrained into every element of humanity, Washington, DC is on a mission to ingrain every element of humanity back into technology.