It's Past Time To Level The Playing Field

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At LinkedIn, researchers identified the skills most in demand. The top 10 last year were all computer skills, including expertise in cloud computing, data mining and statistical analysis, and writing smartphone applications. In a recent analysis, Edward Lazowska, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, focused on the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment forecasts in STEM categories. In the decade ending in 2024, 73 percent of STEM job growth will be in computer occupations. Furthermore, cybersecurity is one of the fast growing stem career fields with a project 3.5 million unfilled positions by 2021. Analyzing data from October 2016 through September 2017, job market tool CyberSeek found a dangerously shallow talent pool. More than 285,000 vacancies were unfilled during that period. (And only 746,858 people made up the cybersecurity workforce.) Some places like Washington, D.C., Delaware and Colorado were acutely short workers; supply in the nation as a whole was classified as very low.

Unfortunately, women, minorities, and disabilities are not equally benefiting from this growth. According to a recent census report, only 24% of women in the workforce make their living in STEM careers. In 2012, white women earned 6,777 PhDs in STEM fields. On the other hand, white men earned 8,478 Ph.D. degrees. For African American women, that number dwindles to 684—10 times fewer scientific doctorates than their white counterparts. With only 3.5% of STEM bachelor degrees, Latina women face an even larger obstacle. In 2012, white women earned 6,777 PhDs in STEM fields. On the other hand, white men earned 8,478 Ph.D. degrees. For African American women, that number dwindles to 684—10 times fewer scientific doctorates than their white counterparts. With only 3.5% of STEM bachelor degrees, Latina women face an even larger obstacle.

It also doesn’t help that racial discrimination may deter students from pursuing some majors, STEM in particular. Although 20 percent of black computer science majors attend historically black colleges and universities, Silicon Valley’s recruitment efforts on those campuses are often lackluster. Black STEM graduates also face significant discrimination on the job, which may discourage some from pursuing those career.  The evidence: Facebook, Twitter, Google & Netflix announced that Black males make up 2% or less of their employees.

Also, individuals with disabilities are under-represented in science, engineering, and mathematics education programs and professions. Regrettably, individuals with disabilities often face challenges to pursuing careers and degrees in STEM and are underrepresented in the STEM fields,” ODEP and NCD wrote on the website advertising the online dialogue. Causes of this problem can be found in three areas: preparation of students with disabilities; access to facilities, programs, and equipment; and acceptance by educators, employers, and co-workers.

Let’s not forget about the cybersecurity field where the number is frighteningly worse. This particular corner of the tech world is even less diverse than the general tech sector, with women making up only 10% of the cybersecurity workforce, and Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans making up only 12% combined.

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How do we level the planning field?

Many are aware that being part of an inclusive culture is what makes employees feel happier, more productive and more motivated to do great work. Feeling included is what makes employees want to stay with a company. A healthy culture recognizes diversity and inclusion and opens its arms for an employee to bring his or her whole self to the workplace. The only way to create this inclusive culture is leveling the playing field, so let’s get at:

Give women, minorities, and those with disabilities access to resources, role models and access to people in STEM that looks like them while they are in K-12. Here are some program worth looking into:

Provide organizations with resources that help them create an inclusive culture

Hold companies accountable to have an inclusive culture

  •         <Div>ersity is building a platform that connects diverse tech talent to trusted, transparent companies.

Create a safe community will people have an open discussion about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topics

The benefits of building a workforce of diverse people who are empowered to contribute to a company’s success positively are numerous – from better financial performance and more innovative problem-solving to easier employee retention and greater appeal to customers. The resources are available to make this happen, and I just listed a few, but I would encourage you to look in your respective communities as well. What are you willing to do to level the playing field in the workplace?