Diversity in tech — Barriers, solutions, and one effective model

Julia Block


9:30 - 10:15

Diversity in the technology industry has become a hot topic as large companies like Google and Facebook release their numbers on gender, ethnic, and racial makeup. Responses to low diversity numbers often include arguments that women and people of color are not applying for these positions, and if they do apply, they are unqualified. This invites two questions: “How can we (non-profits, educational organizations, employers, etc.) ensure the applicants are qualified to get the job?” and “How can employers encourage diversity in employment within their companies once applicants have applied?”

To address these questions, a local Madisonian organization has created a three-month tech bootcamp, the YWeb Career Academy,that lowers barriers for women and people of color by providing a laptop and free tuition. The bootcamp is modeled after similar programs nationwide whose tuition costs range from $5,000 to $15,000; costs that may prevent interested students from learning the web development and design skills necessary to pursuing a tech career. After program completion, students pursue internships or full-time positions at local companies, with continued program support.

This presentation will dive into the question of why women and people of color may not be seen as qualified applicants and dig into the root of the issue: barriers to education and employment. During the allotted time, we will also explore practical applications for diversifying employee pools.