Knighton: Companies should encourage diversification of applicants, hires

Knighton: Companies should encourage diversification of applicants, hires

For one of the most innovative and progressive industries, technology is having a tough time fixing its diversity problem.

Many major tech companies have decided not to publicly display their minority statistics, but some tech giants are beginning to open up about the absence of people of color and women in their offices. Earlier this month, Microsoft released its EEO-1 form, a federal filing that outlines employment data by race and gender. The results weren’t pretty. The company is 60 percent white and 71 percent male, according to a Jan. 5 article.

While the staggering numbers make it easy to place the blame on employers, it is also important that more people of color and women become involved with science, technology, engineering and math at younger ages. A solution to technology’s diversity problem will have to come from a combined effort by tech companies to hire more minorities, as well as minorities actively pursuing education and careers in tech fields.

Teenagers of all ethnicities shouldn’t just be encouraged to get a job in IT, but should be interested in learning the inner workings of the devices they use every day. We are at the point where the Internet and smartphones are no longer the hot new thing and many of us have grown up with this technology. The next hot new thing is yet to be discovered and it is the responsibility of future generations to not only participate, but also innovate.

It is also the responsibility of major tech companies to give more people of color opportunities and hire applicants with a wide range of backgrounds. Diversity in any setting helps groups solve problems more effectively, leads to better decision making and helps companies understand the needs of all types of potential customers.

The current lack of diversity in tech stems from large tech employers routinely plucking the best of the best from the same limited group of colleges and universities and never expanding their scope.

The Obama administration is making an effort to change that. On Jan. 15, Vice President Joe Biden announced a plan to award $25 million to historically black colleges and universities in an effort to expand their cyber security degree programs. This initiative hopes to kill two birds with one stone by enticing more minorities to join the IT field and simultaneously bolstering the country’s online security amidst recent hackings and breeches.

The field of information technology is massive and has one of the highest job placement rates for college graduates. According a article from Dec. 29, there was an 89.9 percent increase in demand for Computer Systems Analysts — this is just one of many jobs that has seen recent growth. Women and people of color in college should take advantage of this push to hire more minorities while the field is still growing and not as competitive. There aren’t many things more enticing to a college student than job security.

At Syracuse University, there are many opportunities for minorities to join the tech community such as the Women in Technology program and BLISTS — the Black and Latino Information Science and Technology Support. Interacting with people who are passionate about technology and engaging in discussions about the devices we use every day could be the spark that sets off a billion dollar app idea.

Solving this diversity dilemma won’t happen overnight. It is going to take a concerted effort by students, educators and employers but future generations will benefit from a balanced workplace tremendously.

One small step for technology, one giant leap for mankind.


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