Downers Grove, Ill. – The technology industry that has dramatically changed the way we live and work can take the lead in bringing greater equality, inclusion and opportunity to society, a group of leaders said Tuesday on the opening day of ChannelCon Online 2020, the virtual conference presented by CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the global technology industry.
“Tech companies have changed the world over the last 20 or 30 years,” said Louis Stewart, chief innovation officer for the City of Sacramento. “Here is a huge opportunity to change the world again.”
Stewart was one of five executives – all current or former CompTIA board members – who participated in a virtual town hall meeting on “Diversity and Inclusion in the Tech Industry.” Moderated by CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux, the session opened the association’s seventh annual virtual conference.
While speakers expressed hope that real change will come from the protests for social justice and equality that have occurred across America for the last several months, their hope is tempered by a history of past promises that went unfulfilled.
“We’ve seen commitments before, but we haven’t seen anything come out of that,” said Aaron Woods, customer success executive, CEX Services, LLC. “This newfound direction to committing more money is great, but if no actionable items come out of this, it’s a waste.”
One of the ways the industry can demonstrate its leadership is to make a true, long-term commitment to diversify its workforce, panelists said.
At the end of 2019, white workers made up 63.5% of the U.S tech industry workforce, while African Americans accounted for 7.6% of the total, according to CompTIA’s analysis of employment data from government and private sector sources.
“There have been plenty of studies that shows the more diverse the company is the better the opportunity you have to be successful,” noted Barry Williams, executive director, indirect channel sales, Comcast Business.
“It’s time for the tech industry to step up, for VCs to step up and start asking the diversity questions,” Stewart added. “You have to have the will to hire to make your company reflect the customers you serve.”
Employers’ unwillingness to change their hiring methods is a major part of the problem, according to CompTIA’s Thibodeaux.
“Employers absolutely need to get back to the mindset that they are going to nurture talent,” Thibodeaux said. “Employers are being extremely picky. It’s an immense challenge to get your foot in the door, not just in tech but in other industries. It’s really going to take a mindset among employers that they are going to nurture talent, to find diamonds in the rough.”
Speakers acknowledged that the obstacles to change – fear, ignorance, a lack of political will, and irresponsible media reporting – are great. But the momentum of the movement for change and the large numbers of people who have been involved are hopeful signs.
Dr. Georgette Fraser-Moore, founder and CEO of Transformation Lead, said her children give her hope.
“I used to think of them as the ‘what’s in it for me generation’ but they are taking ownership in the world,” she said. “They feel the impact of what is happening and they don’t feel good about the world right now.”
“In order for use to advance this conversation, we have to get to a place that it’s not just black people advocating for these human rights,” said Eric Hughes, partner at Agio Advisory. “There is high opportunity for reward if we do this right. The blockers are fear and ignorance. We can overcome that with courage and grace. It is courage and grace that will help us.
The ChannelCon Town Hall on diversity and inclusion is available on demand on CompTIA’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/MLKl0RZ5QD0.
ChannelCon Online 2020 continues through Thursday, August 6. Visit https://www.comptia.org/channelcon for complete details.
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a leading voice and advocate for the $5.2 trillion global information technology ecosystem; and the estimated 75 million industry and tech professionals who design, implement, manage, and safeguard the technology that powers the world’s economy. Through education, training, certifications, advocacy, philanthropy, and market research, CompTIA is the hub for advancing the tech industry and its workforce. www.comptia.org.