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Thinkspace

Is There Diversity in the Tech Workplace?

Diversity in the workplace looks incredibly different depending on the industry and certainly location of the company, but if you’re paying any attention to some of loudest niche markets out there, and definitely those supporting entrepreneurs, you’ll see that women are getting more noise than ever.

While browsing for information about women and diversity in the workplace I stumbled across State of Startups; I found the results fascinating. Venture-firm First Round Capital produces an “annual survey where hundreds of venture-backed founders speak frankly about what it’s like running a technology startup today.” A Wired article points out some of the biases in the actual survey conducted as it notes that while they certainly asked a lot about diversity, they never gathered data on the ethnic breakdown of their own respondents. What I found most interesting about the results however was that startup founders believe that true progress when it comes to diversity is still well into the future, 10+ years. When you think of the big tech companies and the startup world, words like innovative, ground breaking, and spearheading come to mind. When it comes to diversity though, these founders overwhelmingly predicted that it will take 10+ years until the tech scene is representative of the general population. If tech and startups are where innovative practices are born, think of the missed opportunities and insight from women’s unique perspectives that could be leading this even stronger. How do we accelerate this?

With so much media focus on women and minority entrepreneurs and in tech, it’s curious to see such low optimism for diversity goals being met in the startup world. I think we’re lucky in Seattle. We’re surrounded by some incredible women-led groups with missions to support gender diversity like the Female Founders Alliance, entrepreneurial and programming-rich spaces like The Riveter, and programs like Companion Coding which introduces low-income minority youth to careers in tech by training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities. All of these Seattle-based companies don’t just have visions to support women and minority entrepreneurs, but are creating resources and spreading awareness about it as well.

At thinkspace we get to see women in tech thrive in their businesses. We see startup co-founders like Cassie Wallender of Invio and software engineers like Erin Fitzhenry of ToSomeone, and we host the Women in Tech Regatta, which gathers to connect wo(men) in tech to mentors, peers, and resources. In talking to Erin Fitzhenry about diversity in tech jobs and startups, she shared an interesting perspective about her experience as a woman in technology–she isn’t a fan of the term. Though she acknowledges her strength in her abilities, her interests lie in tech as a tool for solving problems rather than in the technology itself. That is sometimes in contrast with her male counterparts, especially ones who grew up gaming and got interested in the industry because of it. Erin noted that if schools, clubs, and parents focused on using technology as a tool to solve meaningful problems in the world, this might attract more girls to this concept at a younger age, helping fill the pipeline in the future.

Certainly we’re seeing more women and minorities as CEOs and in tech, but the growth rate according to this data points to the pipeline being underrepresented and unconscious biases during hiring. Entrepreneurs and companies always have room to do more to be inclusive but finding the resources to support that is crucial. Thinkspace partner New Tech NW has an incredible resource guide Diversity and Minorities in Tech which I highly recommend taking a look at if you’re interested in gaining resources or getting involved.

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