It’s hardly news that racial and gender inequality plague the tech industry. The problem is conspicuous from college campuses to the workforce, whereas recently as last year, women held just 26% of U.S. computing-related jobs, according to Labor Bureau data. The stats are even bleaker for Black and Hispanic women, who each accounted for less than 4% of the computing workforce and are barely visible in the elite world of Silicon Valley.
The issue is not lack of awareness. Even before the Black Lives Matters and MeToo movements thrust issues of inequality into the spotlight, the tech industry knew it had a problem. The awareness was evident in the consultants hired, the research published, the commitments made and money thrown over the years at making the industry more diverse.
So why such limited progress?
Much of it comes down to the wrong strategic approach. Most efforts to address diversity in tech target narrow slices of a complex system spanning industries, from education to finance. Efforts to hire more women and people from BIPOC communities are important. But ignoring all the other issues that contribute to underrepresentation of certain groups in tech — academic racism, discriminatory banking, lack of mentorship and a corporate environment that may be unwelcoming to women and people of color who do make it through the door — will never lead to sustained, transformative change.
Tackling an entrenched, systemic issue requires a large-scale, coordinated solution that will open doors for underrepresented groups while they’re still in school — and keep them open as they progress in their lives and careers. This sort of effort cannot be simply limited to Silicon Valley, which receives a disproportionate amount of tech investment and is economically inaccessible to most Americans.
That’s why GET Cities, a Gender Equality in Tech program, is working to develop inclusive tech hubs across the United States. The program is led by SecondMuse and Break Through Tech in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates.
The idea is to do the ambitious, multi-faceted work it takes to establish a truly inclusive tech ecosystem — one in which all the various players within a city’s growing tech industry are working together to develop, attract and retain the brilliant minds that the industry has historically excluded. The untapped talent and innovation are out there, and we are working to bring it into the fold, one ecosystem at a time.