The tech workforce in the US is not growing at an optimal pace. The number of schools offering computer science is not enough which is impacting the access of computer science to young women and students from marginalized communities.
The truth is that there are over 410,020 open computing jobs in the US but only 71,226 computer science students graduated into the tech workforce last year.
This is because only 47% of public high schools in the US offer computer science which deeply impacts its access to young women and students from marginalized communities.
To address this pressing issue, we have launched #MyStartInTech, a campaign dedicated to drawing attention to this cause and in turn, help widen access to computer science in schools.
As part of this campaign, we present the #MyStartInTech interview series where some of the esteemed tech entrepreneurs and professionals in the industry share details about their journey in tech. With this, we hope to draw attention to the infinite opportunities that will lay open if young women and students are given the opportunity to study computer science.
In this interview, the Co-Founder of ColorinTech & Black Tech Fest Lead, Ashleigh Ainsley, talks about his experiences in the tech world.
Let’s find out what he has to say!
What is Black Tech Fest doing to make a change?
Black Tech Fest exists to provide a platform. We want to use this platform to highlight amazing Black people in the technology industry and use that as an opportunity to provide more role models for folks who don’t necessarily see people like them in leadership, innovating, or working in the technology industry.
Through providing a platform to celebrate Black technologists, we hope to open up a conversation about how we can create more pathways for more people from diverse backgrounds to get into the industry and our partners are committed to that mission and have created opportunities.
One example is that Tiktok fast tracks graduates through their recruitment process if they attend Black Tech Fest. An organization like Facebook provides a number of recruiters who candidates can talk to live in session in real-time at the event to connect with further opportunities and ask particular questions about their circumstances.
Black Tech Fest is from 19th to 21st October 2021, click here for more details.
Do you believe that the tech space is moving in the right direction?
Our latest research suggests that there is a lot more to be done. When we surveyed members of the community we found that 38% of them actually believe that most of the gestures that organizations did in response to the events that affected the black community in 2020 were tokenistic.
This tells us that there is a lot more work to be done in this space. I think broadly 80% of people thought that the startup ecosystem was no different in terms of inclusion in the last year. I don’t think we can let organizations put themselves on the back because they have put something on social media or because they have told us that they are going to do more but we actually need to realize those gestures in action.
One positive thing we will note is that we have observed more conversations around race. However, there is a lot more to be done in terms of making that turn into substantive action otherwise all talk and no action could be more damaging.
What are your earliest memories of using a computer in school?
Haha! To be honest it was in primary school. I remember we had to program a small virtual robot to move across the screen. This is in the days where the world used dial-up to access the Internet.
What inspired you that you know tech is what you wanted to do?
Two touch points stand out to me from when I was younger. The first of which is Google Earth! I used to play around on it and whilst I didn’t understand the technology, I knew the tech-powered Google Earth and that was making the world come to life via the Internet and therefore technology was something that I wanted to be involved in.
The second was actually Wikipedia and simply the fact that the Internet had the ability to solve my problems. I was doing some of my homework and having access to such a fantastic source of information massively reduced the time spent required on the homework and I had a strong feeling that technology can solve some of the world’s biggest issues and I wanted to be part of that.
How important is it to increase access to computer science and technology to underrepresented communities and young women today?
In the UK we woefully under-prepared students and young people for roles that they will need in the future. Sadly there aren’t enough girls and young women taking up computer science and STEM subjects.
We see that a large part of that involves girls dropping off these subjects in secondary schools so we need to do a lot more work at that level to encourage people to believe that the science and tech industries are a more inclusive place for great women to work. We also need to provide demonstrations of successful people in these fields to provide that role model effect for these young people too.
We can’t just believe the issue is resolved by these simple solutions, however, as the digital divide is real, some of the most underprivileged folks in society are unable to have good access to strong internet or digital devices and we need to do a much better job at making sure that people have access to the core fundamental infrastructure and learning in order to make sure that they can take advantage of some of the opportunities that are presented in the industry.
Are brands doing enough to solve this problem?
Fundamentally, brands aren’t really doing enough. We’ve seen organizations start to discuss these issues small and certainly in terms of areas of marketing externally we are seeing better representation.
However, that is very optical and you know there’s a lot of work that needs to be done by organizations looking at their culture, their employees, and their practices.
There are very cool ways of being in order to really make a significant difference to the experience so this doesn’t just seem like a marketing trend but evolved to be something more meaningful.