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Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion Benefit Us All

A deep dive into the world of tech and how Kids Code Jeunesse is helping to bring equity and inclusion to the forefront.

Rosabelle Jiselle
1 April 2022

Diversity in the tech sector still needs a lot of improvement. Compared to men, women in Canada are four times less likely to find employment in the tech industry, according to research from the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Of the visible minorities in Canada, only 7.6% work in the tech industry.

This industry ostensibly uses technology to solve human problems. Yet how can the industry fully identify the problems of women, people of color, and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals when there aren't enough of them in the tech workforce?

This article will discuss the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech, and what the industry can do to attract diverse individuals.

Why Diversity Matters

What’s holding women, people of color, and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals from entering the tech workforce? Hint: It’s not a lack of skill.

In fact, many of the most notable programmers in history came from these kinds of backgrounds. The first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, was a woman. Gay mathematician Alan Turing — whom younger audiences will recognize from the movie The Imitation Game — famously created the model for modern computers: the Turing machine.

America’s success during the space race hinged on contributions from a Black workforce. Black mathematician Katherine Johnson, made famous by Margot Lee Shetterly’s book "Hidden Figures", calculated trajectories for Apollo and Mercury spaceflights. In an America still largely segregated, Johnson had to overcome workplace discrimination for her contributions to be heard.

These and countless other examples prove what we should all understand intuitively: Great minds can come from anywhere. Accordingly, when prejudice excludes entire groups of people, the tech workforce shrinks its talent pool and its potential to produce impactful work.

Beyond pure contribution, meanwhile, teams also gain broader perspective when their workers come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Workers can use their unique experiences to identify solutions that others cannot see. Better yet, they’ll also be able to identify and explain problems their own underserved or overlooked communities face — and then use tech to solve them.

Solutions

The best way to promote diversity in the tech industry is to make relevant education more accessible. According to Computer Weekly’s article on coding bootcamps, high costs can make tech education inaccessible to low-income students. Given that women and people of color tend to make less than their counterparts, these financial barriers to tech education tend to disproportionately affect minority groups. Here are a few specific solutions to this problem that are worthy of consideration:

Teach Coding In Elementary Schools

By the time students graduate high school, they will have already had experiences with discrimination. To give a relevant example, girls selecting their college majors might be too intimidated by existing gender gaps to pursue tech-related fields; they may even be advised against such pursuits by mentors.

Children, on the other hand, are somewhat less exposed to direct discrimination, at least with respect to career paths. By teaching computer programming for kids, then, schools can build those children's confidence before they can internalize discriminatory misconceptions about their own skills. Kids learning code will grow up believing they belong in the field of tech if it's something that interests them.

Teachers themselves should also be properly trained in teaching computer programming. Coding is a complex topic, and kids might not absorb the information or build interest if they are not taught correctly. Kids Code Jeunesse's Code In The Classroom workshops provide online co-teaching environments that can guide the way teachers deliver coding lessons. The program can help teachers and students of any skill level, be it beginner or intermediate.

Create Programs For Underserved Communities

Since most schools have yet to implement elementary technology education, organizations can step up and create teaching programs for students in underserved communities. Non-profit education programs can make learning resources accessible to students who would have otherwise not had access.

For example, the Code Clubs here at Kids Code Jeunesse provide workshops to children aged 9-13. Participating children get to learn from volunteer teachers while working on their dream coding projects. And because the workshops are free, any child can participate, no matter their background or financial standing.

Make Online Learning Materials Accessible

The internet can also help students access education technology resources that can support their tech learning. Tutorials online help students develop coding skills independently, and at their own pace. And when these resources are free, they can better reach students of diverse backgrounds.

YouTube instructors, such as Khan Academy, have also helped illuminate complex coding concepts for high school and college students. Similarly, internet-based teachers can further improve accessibility by creating tutorials tailored for children. People can also share their tech expertise by creating child-oriented forums similar to StackOverflow, where aspiring programmers and experts are able to freely share knowledge.

Nobody should feel excluded from an industry just because of their identity. Promoting diversity in the tech industry is a major undertaking, and one that will take time to produce satisfactory results. But it all starts with education.

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