Bridge the Confidence Gap: CompTIA CEO’s ChannelCon Keynote Emphasizes Diversity

_DSC7355CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux kicked off day two of CompTIA ChannelCon, being held at the JW Marriott Austin, July 31 to August 2, by strongly asserting that IT needs to ensure it’s a diverse industry to bridge its skills-gap and capitalize on the innovation inherent in drawing from as wide a talent pool as possible.

Thibodeaux pointed to an eye-opening statistic. When compared to a census of the general population, one million women are missing from IT. “That’s a hole equal to 20 percent of the tech workforce,” he said.

So what’s wrong? Thibodeaux first addressed the problem of visibility. He said in any field you need to know what to expect from a working environment and what you need to be successful. Here IT may be falling behind. Thibodeaux pointed to numbers illustrating how IT companies in Silicon Valley lag when it comes to matching the demographic makeup of the general population within their own workforces but then countered that there is an “overemphasis on Silicon Valley as the problem.” A larger problem is that tech jobs are moving to urban areas, creating a divide. “I’m very fearful that rural areas will be left behind and will affect the visibility of IT for young people in those areas,” he said.

Thibodeaux asserted that men and women of color are being underutilized in IT. He pointed out that a small percent of African Americans and Hispanics who hold computer science degrees also hold tech jobs. He also cited the statistic that people of color enter and then leave the tech industry at 3.5 the rate of white men – so even once they enter IT they dislike it in some way and leave. According to Thibodeaux, this may suggest the presence of a “confidence gap” with respect to IT on the part of minority populations. “If we could narrow that confidence gap, we could get more people into the skills pipeline.”

Where does this confidence gap come from? Thibodeaux suggested it may be a matter of assimilation; that these populations find IT company cultures to be rigid and unwelcoming. And yet, Thibodeaux noted, roughly 94 percent of companies give themselves a passing grade on diversity.

Thibodeaux recommended steps to address this problem, among them prioritizing diversity and inclusion, eliminating unconscious bias, filling your talent pipeline via diversity hiring, and being a mentor and connecting.

What actions is CompTIA taking here? The association is considering a workforce think tank; would like to create diversity recognition awards; and wants to aggregate a library of relevant resources. Thibodeaux closed his remarks by challenging every attendee to add three people of a different gender of ethnic background on LinkedIn.

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