Will True Diversity in Tech Ever Become a Reality?
A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of attending and being a speaker at the Future for Us Summit at the Riveter in Seattle.
As a minority woman and Indian American who immigrated to this country over 28 years ago, it was very gratifying to see the hundreds of people that gathered there on a Friday night. The summit’s theme was about creating a space for women of color to discuss and use our voices. I found it interesting that these discussions still need to exist in one of the most advanced countries in the world, especially since women of color have become prominent leaders in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and more.
I immigrated from a very diverse community that included people from over 60 countries. Interacting with people from every corner of the world is nothing new to me, yet as soon as I stepped out of this safe community space, I was labelled as a woman of color, as a minority woman. This is simply because of the color of my skin and the scarf on my head, which somehow translates into being different from other Americans. Does immigrating from a different country, presenting myself differently, and having a rich cultural background diminish my aspirations for education, entrepreneurship, work ethic, and achievement? Quite the opposite. I am driven simply by being in a country where I can fulfill my passions, which would have been much more difficult in my home country.
I am filled with gratitude to be able to be in a position to help those refugees and immigrants who come to this country in search of a better life; whether they have arrived here in search of establishing themselves financially or if they are escaping persecution from their own countries. Seattle is unique in that we have a large influx of refugees hailing from all over the world, yet the city remains predominantly white and it is increasingly difficult to live comfortably. When immigrants and refugees arrive here in Seattle, the welcome mat, although very hospitable, does not last long. Although we pride ourselves on being a sanctuary city, we do little to work with refugees and immigrants on the skills and talents that they bring to this country. The first encounters that these immigrants have with local organizations or city officials look like being directed to their first job, which pays a very low wage and does not allow them to build skills to obtain their next, better paying job. Thus, creating the vicious cycle of poverty and struggle, as Seattle is growing progressively more expensive in terms of housing, education, and standard of living.
When I founded Skillspire 3 years ago, I wanted to focus on these underrepresented communities, refugees, minorities and women who come with a passion and the hunger to make a better life for themselves and their families.
These are the Uber drivers, the airport workers, warehouse employees, people in security. We often forget about the immigrants who come here and are unable to market their existing skillsets or the immigrants who did not have access to technical training in their home countries. What about the local black and Latino populations who are grossly underrepresented in technical roles? According to a survey conducted by Stack Overflow (a trusted online community for developers), White or of European descent dominate the tech industry at 70.8%, Hispanic or Latino/Latina at 7.1%, and Black or of African descent at only 3.6%. Only 11% of coders are women.
Although many claim that the tech sector is already flooded with immigrants, these people immigrate from select countries (India, China, European countries) and they were able to make it simply because of previous jobs and pre-existing connections. And that’s exactly what we set out to achieve with Skillspire.
Skillspire’s mission is to advance the careers and futures of underrepresented talent: women, immigrants, and people of color. We envision a tech sector that better reflects the population it serves by training and supporting diverse, historically underrepresented communities in their journey to enter technical careers. We believe that every individual – and especially those from underrepresented communities – should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams in the tech sector. If you would like to partner to help these loyal, hard-working individuals into fulfilling job in the tech sector, reach out to us. We can make this happen if we come together and pool our resources.
As a woman of color who was given an education and opportunities in tech, it is my responsibility to reach back and pull others up.
We have people of two types. There are those who are fortunate to make decisions and make an impact in other people’s lives. And we need bold decisions from them us to move the rest of us forward. And then there are others who need to be bold enough to take the first step! I would not have imagined that I would have the courage to begin a startup and obtain funding to start making a real difference in people’s lives.
I am thankful to be in this place of giving back. My legacy is every life that I influence. If I have changed one person’s life for the better since starting Skillspire, I have achieved what I have set out to accomplish. That’s success for me!
And kudos to Future for Us for championing for these women of color to create a community to make sure that our voices are heard. I am humbled that you gave me the opportunity to be part of this panel with other distinguished panelists like Nikita Oliver, Michelle Storms, and Raquel Sandez. Aparna and Sage, you have started quite a revolution. This is just the beginning! I wish you good luck and I would love to partner with you in every step of the way.