Increasing Talent, Increasing Diversity

Increasing Talent, Increasing Diversity

To increase the number of under-represented groups who are hired as technologists, Nebraska needs to be intentional about its training and education.  Currently, our programs are not producing women or people of color who join the technology workforce at the desired rate.  One of the goals of the Nebraska Tech Collaborative, a workforce initiative of the Aksarben Foundation, is to change that fact.

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This problem is not specific to Nebraska.  Recent reports by technical companies around the United States have revealed diversity, equity, and inclusion numbers below stated goals and with minimal improvement over the last five years.  According to data from diversity reports that many technology companies make public, virtually all fail to achieve balance between men and women and with under-represented groups.  For example, PayPal’s technical staff includes 25% women and 7% under-represented groups.  These reports detail the workforce of the companies in relatively deep detail providing demographics and information that is often difficult to discover using public measurements.  So, the companies should be praised for providing the data[1].  It is not required.  But, the picture of company workforce, particularly the technical workforce, that it reveals is bleak for women and under-represented minorities.   

[1] For a particularly strong example of a diversity report, please example the linked report by Google.

Based on this data and the subjective reports of Nebraska employers, diversity, equity, and inclusion are problematic within technology.  Simply put, Nebraska employers along with most others around the world fail to hire women and under-represented groups at a level commensurate with the number of women and under-represented groups in the surrounding community.  To fix this, NTC believes that providing more money into the same programs is not the answer.  Instead, NTC will seek to re-examine existing data and partner with organizations that are providing more detailed data and analysis.  This will allow NTC to provide better insights based on real data.  For example, the NSWERS initiative launched by community leaders promises to provide more data and insights to what happens to students from the State.  Tracking technology students and understanding where they move throughout their careers will provide unique insight to how to recruit boomerangs and retain students.

In general, NTC expects three major efforts to be critical in the increase in women and under-represented groups in technology in Nebraska.  First, NTC plans to provide more transparency on the current practices using a regular survey across organizations that partner with NTC.  In particular, the goal is to increase the rate of new hires in these demographics – (a) women at 40% of the newly hired workforce and (b) under-represented groups at 20% of the newly hired workforce.  These are challenging numbers and would put Nebraska on the track to be ahead of many coastal organizations.

Second, NTC will work with organizations – such as the AIM Institute, Growing Together (another workforce initiative of the Aksarben Foundation), colleges and universities, community colleges, and other providers of key training.  The goal will be to increase the number of enrollees in programs that will ultimately yield women and under-represented minority candidates for hire.  This program is still in its infancy, but the goal is to double down on and build new programs that encourage more Nebraskans to become technologists.  A good example of a new type of program created with the help of the NTC initiative is the Callers-to-Coders program that has been created, developed, and implemented at Physicians Mutual by Nathen Coberly in partnership with the AIM Institute.  This program has helped use work time as an opportunity to retrain call center employees into technologists.  The first class has helped retrain six members of the Physicians Mutual team into new early stage technology workers.   According to reports, this program has succeeded and is now being examined as a potentially replicable program across numerous Nebraska businesses. 

Third, NTC will focus on improving training programs and access programs for kids PK-12 to become technologists.  This is particularly important to expose, support, and empower women and under-represented minorities throughout their early education to believe that STEM, and particularly technology, are good career fields that provide challenging work, ample financial reward, and a strong network of people who come from similar backgrounds. 

The fundamental goal of this early exposure and training program is to develop and expand community culture that creates opportunities for kids PK-12 to be aware of, inspired to, and prepared for a career in information technology.  To do this, NTC will help build mentorship programs that expose students to real people with careers in technology.  NTC believes that Nebraska must expand the PK-12 curriculum to include more advanced development training in high school and earlier exposure to technical through process in elementary and middle school.  One key discussion point has been the need to implement AP Computer Science across the state.  This would help jumpstart potential students from around Nebraska down a career path of technology before the student has even reached college.

In conclusion, NTC recognizes that to grow the diversity of its workforce, programming needs to change.  This programming needs to intentionally target women and under-represented groups who are not currently present in the Nebraska workforce at the levels that the community desires.  However, this also means changing our current processes to be more thoughtful of encouragement, engagement, and measurement throughout the lifecycle of technology workforce training.  Through this focus, NTC believes that it will be able to improve the diversity of the Nebraska technical workforce.