Panel Discusses Challenges, Solutions to Tech Inclusion As the nation's demographics changes, diversity becoming urgent

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The lack of racial and gender diversity in the tech sector has long been a problem. Blacks and Hispanics are less than five percent of the workforce at major tech companies, according to recent surveys, and women barely make up a quarter of employees.

Moderator Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever

The “A Bug in the System: Fixing the Tech Sector’s Inclusion Problem” panel at the 2017 Future of Wealth Summit had the difficult task of not only addressing the industry’s lack of diversity, but proposing solutions to fix it.

Moderator Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, founder of the Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, said no other industry has been so averse to diversity.

Laura Gomez has been in tech since she was 17.

“When you think of the entire American labor force, there is probably no space within it more in need of an infusion of inclusion than the tech industry,” she said.

Panelist Laura Gomez is founder and CEO of Atipica, a startup that discoveries the diverse tech talent that the industry claims doesn’t exist. Though she has been in the tech industry since she was a teenager and has worked at several top Silicon Valley companies, Gomez found many barriers while raising $2 million to start Atipica.

Being a woman, a Latina, and a single founder was a “trifecta of difficulty,” she said.

Ron Gonzales is looking to partner with tech firms.

As the CEO of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, Ron Gonzales is trying to make the path less bumpy for the techpreneurs coming behind Gomez. The Foundation is building partnerships with tech firms in the Valley to create a direct pipeline between them and students at local high schools. The Foundation has had some success, but not nearly enough, said Gonzales, who believes tech CEOs don’t realize, that by 2015, half of those entering the workforce will be Hispanic.

“We have to better frame this whole subject around solutions. This is about their future workforce,” he said.

Apple Shareholder Tony Maldonado.

Tony Maldonado, executive creative director of IGRP Insignia Entertainment, agrees that calls for diversity won’t get much traction if they are framed as social issues. Business people speak in dollars and cents, he said, so a better argument is touting the economic power and influence of people of color around the world.

“No one has bothered to challenge them on the business side: the economics of diversity,” said Maldonado, an Apple shareholder who has twice, unsuccessfully, called for fellow shareholders to adopt a more aggressive diversity hiring initiative at the tech giant.

Sarah Kunst makes a point.

Sarah Kunst, founder and CEO of the fitness app, said until the industry accepts the reality that talent can exist in a non-white male body, women and people of color will continue to hit roadblocks.

“It’s not hard to see the people you’re not hiring. It’s not hard to find us … It’s systematic overlooking because people are not looking for you,” she said.

Neil Green is part of Intel's efforts to embrace diversity.

Intel is leading the way in embracing inclusion and has gained praise for its efforts. Neil Green, president & GM of Intel Federal LLC, touted the company’s aggressive plan to be “fully representative” by 2020. The plan includes seeking diverse talent at inner-city high schools and historically black colleges and universities.

“(We are) showing up in places where the diverse talent pool exists … building a pipeline of students who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields,” he said.

Watch this informative discussion in its entirety.

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