I have been attending CompTIA events since 2012, the year they held one of their first Advancing Women in Technology (AWIT) community meetings at their Annual Member Meeting (AMM), and knew from that moment on that this was an organization that I would enjoy. Over the years they have continued to earn my respect by creating other communities such as the Future Leaders and this year, the Advancing Diversity in Technology community.
Todd Thibodeaux, President & CEO of CompTIA began day two of the conference with a state of the industry address focusing on diversity, giving us insight into why they launched the community and what they are looking to foster with it. According to Thibodeaux and his research, there are three root causes of the lack of diversity in technology: visibility, pipeline and culture.
There is a lack of visibility into the countless possibilities that working in technology can offer. This is compounded by the fact that the industry is portrayed as 'nothing but coding' which may deter potential entrants. Those of us working in technology need to share our stories with others, especially the younger generations, to ensure that they think of technology as an option for a career. At PrintFleet, for example, we have cloud IT administrators, developers, technical support, internal IT, sales, marketing and customer experience. We may not all be building our software but we are all active in creating the solution which we can then offer to our customers.
When something is not visible or thought of as an option people do not get an education in it, resulting in a skills gap. Thibodeaux argued that it is not necessarily a skills gap that the industry is suffering from but a confidence gap. He believes people are educated and can be trained further, but organizations are not making a commitment to these initiatives and supporting potential employees to get to the level required. One startling statistic he mentioned was that there is a 4:1 margin of people of colour who get a degree in technology and then do not get a job in the field. Another way in which to foster the funnel is to have diversity as a metric of sucess for funding, as stated in a recent article from CBC.
Even more starling is that people of colour leave the field at a rate 3.5 times more than the rate of white men and that a third of women in technology like their work but will probably quit within a year because they do not like the environment they work in. Unfortunately, there are too many rigid cultures and people are expected to assimilate. Atlassian's 2017 State of Diversity Report highlights the gap between perception and reality, stating that 94% of respondents gave their company and their teams a passing grade for diversity yet only roughly 5% are people of colour and 24% identity as female. I am proud to report that PrintFleet is roughly 31% women and 14% people of colour, but I think we can do better. As an indistry overall we need to invest in the retention and advancemnt of a diverse workforce.
Not sure where to start? Just ask yourself a couple questions - what unconscious biases might I have? How is my company handling diversity? What can I do to support diversity? Fast Company has a really great list of 10 commitments that will make a difference in diversity if you are looking for the next step.
I'd love to chat more about diversity and how we can all make a difference - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!