COLUMN: Diversity in tech fields

Recruitment for technology-based companies is often described as a pipeline: a direct flow of talent from some of the top universities in the nation to the offices of companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google.

While that image paints an overly-simplistic picture of how networking functions, it almost entirely fails for students of color looking to enter the tech industry.

Yahoo’s 2015 report about diversity in its company revealed that African-Americans make up only 2 percent of its employees, according to Buzzfeed. Facebook reported in 2014 that only 81 of the 5,500 people in their workforce were black.

While these companies say they are working hard to increase the diversity of the tech workforce, they claim at the same time that there are simply not enough people of color studying subjects such as computer science and 

A 2014 analysis in USA Today, however, suggested the claim of lacking qualified applicants of color was inaccurate. According to that study, black and Hispanic students were graduating with degrees in relevant subjects at twice the rate tech companies were hiring them.

Part of the issue, then, is tech giants are looking in the wrong places. Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, MIT and the University of California are some of the most popular recruitment campuses for many of these companies, according to Wired magazine. While the University of California system has large Hispanic student populations, most of these schools have few black students.

Historically black colleges and universities are trying to help their students connect with tech companies but have one major disadvantage: a lack of an alumni or familial connections to tech industries. Access to large tech companies at these universities is limited to the efforts of those tech companies to connect with students, which until recently were lackluster.

I feel there is more IU, as well as other public universities, can do to improve failures to recruit and find job placements for minority students. The first step toward fixing this issue is simply to have a more diverse campus.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, IU is approximately 73 percent white, with black and Latino students accounting for four percent each. As with other top-level schools in the nation, in order to produce high-caliber graduates of all races, we must increase the presence of minority populations on our campus.

Since the problem also lies with how tech companies have historically recruited students, part of the solution on the University’s end must be to connect with those companies. IU is constantly trying to leverage its alumni to contribute to the University somehow, mostly through donations. Connecting students of color that are trying to enter the tech industry with alumni of color who’ve made it seems to me an invaluable resource.

Finally, universities need to look beyond their campuses to try to find talented techies of color. Inspiring a love of technology in the children of Bloomington’s schools, as well as providing resources for their continued success, could show some of the most valuable returns of all.

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