Post 1: What’s Preventing Diversity in Tech?

This summer I have the privilege of working with the Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC) in Charleston, SC. The CDC is focused on advancing Charleston’s tech economy as well as creating opportunities for a diverse set of entrepreneurs in the region. I was born and raised in South Carolina and have lived in Charleston for the bulk of my life. I’m incredibly passionate about advancement here in the south and the CDC has been an integral part my city and state becoming a thriving tech hub. The CDC’s unwavering commitment to the region is in large part why I chose a fellowship with the organization.

I have the unique opportunity of guiding and structuring the majority of my day-to-day work. The central goal of my fellowship is to fully develop and launch a non-profit organization before the end of the summer. Over the last four weeks, my time has mostly been occupied with research and phone calls. My research has largely focused on the racial and gender disparities in the tech industry, especially as they pertain to computer science. While I have always maintained a consciousness of the overall lack of diversity in tech, never has the issue seemed so apparent to me than now.

For example, white and Asian men dominate the computer science (CS) field and make up more than 82% of CS undergraduate degree recipients. This reflects glaringly in the working pool where women make up only 26% of all tech sector employees, and Black and Latino employees make up less than 15% combined. These numbers pushed me to look deeper into the root cause of these disparities, where I found that, despite having a greater interest in CS than white students, Black and Latino students are restricted by a lack of access to resources.

The case for women tells a different story. Myths about STEM pipelines and inherent interest have often pervaded the narrative. However, unconscious bias, not pipeline issues or personal choices, push women out of STEM and contribute to a pattern of discouragement. For instance, almost two thirds of women in STEM with children say their commitment and competence were questioned and opportunities decreased, especially after having children.

In an effort to further reinforce these stories, I’ve spoken with a diverse range of entrepreneurs, programmers, and engineers about their experiences in tech. These conversations have been personally enriching and deeply insightful, and I hope to share these as I move forward this summer. This period of learning and reflection has been integral to understanding just some of the issues preventing the diversification of the tech sector.

I aim to move towards tackling these issues in the coming weeks and months, and sharing the knowledge and ideas I develop along the way.