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Local leaders working to diversify the tech community in the city. Photo: Jensen Toussaint
Local leaders working to diversify the tech community in the city. Photo: Jensen Toussaint

The dire need to bring more diversity into tech

Philadelphia is full of resources that can result in more women and people of color entering the field.

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The historian, teacher, and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois once said, “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”

More than 50 years after his death, those words still ring true.

According to Recruiting Innovation, an online training program for tech recruiters, the tech industry adds about 9,600 jobs every month to the U.S. economy.

As one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, the diversity needs to grow, as well.

The Pew Research Center published a graphic that shows that while women make up 53 percent of the workforce, and 50 percent of the STEM field, tech and engineering are the two industries that lag the farthest behind.  

Even more glaring is the fact that tech is the only one of those fields where women are even more underrepresented today than they were in 1990.

Racial diversity can also stand to drastically improve, as African Americans and Hispanics make up just about two percent of the tech workforce.

But as W.E.B. DuBois’ quote reflects, it is essential for young girls, and young individuals from diverse backgrounds to see more people from similar backgrounds working in the tech industry in order to believe that they can enter it as well.

Comcast as a saving grace  
In 2012, Comcast launched an ERG program that continues to grow in membership and chapters today.

One of those ERGs is the Black Employee Network, which aims to attract and retain the best Black talent at all levels, and provide professional development opportunities for its members.

“We formed under the idea of focusing on pipelining advocacy and representation for black technologists here at Comcast,” Mumin Ransom of Comcast said during a Philly Tech Week event.

For two years in a row, Comcast was voted as one of the top diversity organizations in the country.

That distinction shows the commitment Comcast has made towards making sure that diversity exists from the top down, and that starts by engaging all communities.

Creating Opportunities in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a city that is filled with tech startups that cater to the diverse communities that make up the city’s population.

For example, Philly Tech Sistas is an organization aimed at helping women of color gain technical and professional skills for the tech industry.

“I wanted to lower some barriers for more women of color to enter into this space,” Founder Ashley Turner said.

“I know that this city is filled with Black and brown people, and I wanted them to receive the same opportunities that I was injecting myself into,” she added. “There’s no reason why we can’t be in these spaces getting this knowledge and making a way for ourselves.”

Sylvester Mobley had a similar vision when he started Coded By Kids, a nonprofit tech education organization that equips students with tools to be tech leaders of the future, after leaving a job in tech himself.

“I didn’t want a kid to have to go through the same thing that I had to go through working in tech,” he said. “Over and over, I found myself on project teams where I was the only person who looked the way that I did, and just really out of frustration, I felt like there had to be a better way of ensuring no other kid felt what I felt and went through what I went through.”

Philadelphia is a hub for available resources to diversity the tech field - it’s all about tapping into those resources, educating others about them, and taking action. Starting that proposition from childhood can go a long way towards reaching the goal.

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