With the pleasant sound of cutlery on crockery, those lucky enough to secure tickets to the WIT Lunch at the PASS Summit get to listen to an interview with Kimberly Bryant, who is the founder of a non-profit organisation called Black Girls Code – helping teenaged girls from low-privilege communities to get into technology.
She calls herself an Accidental Entrepreneur, driven by her passion to see the less-privileged have opportunities to explore an industry that was dominated by a very different part of the community. Her daughter was interested in tech, and went on a tech-focused summer camp, where she was the only non-white kid, and one of only three girls. With a crowd of about 40, that was less than ten percent of the camp.
What Kimberly saw at the camp, and in other environments that are dominated by a particular demographic, was that the people who were providing for the group would cater for the masses, and not the minorities. From an economic perspective, I’m sure this makes sense. If you’re going to find something that caters for a particular cluster of people, a particular type of person, then targetting the larger clusters is likely to give the ‘best results’. But (my opinion) this is ignoring the fact that the larger clusters of people tend to be catered for by just about anything. In my experience, if someone is part of a larger cluster, they have a large amount of support from their peers already, and need less from the organisers. But if the organisers can ensure that the edges of the group are looked after, then the ones in the middle will still be just fine, and the whole group will be encouraged.
Diversity is something that the IT industry suffers from, and I do mean ‘suffer’. Without good diversity, our industry is held back. Stupidly, our industry keeps shooting itself in the foot, and it’s the larger clusters of people – I guess that means people like me – who need to take a stand when we see things that would alienate minority groups.
Kimberly Bryant points out that teams need diversity, and that hiring decisions need to ensure that they don’t turn away people because of diversity. For myself, as a business owner, I hope that I never turn someone away because of diversity, because I do agree that teams need diversity. What I love the most though, is that what Kimberly has done is to develop programs to make sure that people from a particular minority group present as stronger candidates to hiring managers.
Let’s encourage people from minority groups to get into IT. We’ll all benefit from it.