Innovators changing the face of tech
Voto Latino and msnbc have teamed up to showcase leaders who are diversifying the tech landscape. Through a series of events – including the Voto Latino Innovators Challenge and Twitter chats discussing diversity in the technology industry – the collaboration spotlights the tremendous strides that are being made to make computer programming careers and entrepreneurship more accessible to women and people of color.
Before Spring 2014, tech giants like Google and Facebook didn’t publicly discuss data on the demographics of their employees. Across the industry, the percentage of Black, Latino and multiracial employees has been very low. Only 6% of U.S. tech workers are African-American, and 7% are Latino, while whites, who account for 71%, and Asian Americans who account for 16%, dominate tech.
Vivek Wadhwa, who was once criticized by his peers for addressing Silicon Valley’s failure to include more women and minorities, told msnbc that venture capital, the source of money that funds many startups, has been declining because of the lack of diversity.
“Venture capital is in dismal shape,” said Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and co-author of the book “Innovating Women.” “It produces low returns because it’s been the bastion of the boys club, which is not the model that needs to be followed,” Wadwa continued. “You need men and women. African-American and Latino – diversity is a catalyst to innovation.”
Now, after confronting the industry-wide issue, some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley are making diversity a top priority.
Along with Wadhwa, Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code; and Luz Rivas, founder of DIY Girls, have been major players in recruiting women to take on computer programming, or “coding” – the skill needed to build websites, digital systems, and apps.
“We have a student who is 12 and has several apps in the Google Play and Apple App store that she has built on her own,” Bryant said.
Another critical component to the tech industry is “angel” investors, who are the financial backers of these nimble startups. Edward Avila, through Manos Accelerator, and Natalia Oberti Noguera of Pipeline Fellowship have a unique model focused on recruiting women and Latino investors. Leaders in the field are focusing on diversity at all levels of the industry.
Wadhwa, who has worked in technology for more than 20 years, has noticed a major shift in Silicon Valley to support companies like Girls Who Code and Manos Accelerator. “CEOs are dead serious about diversity … We are winning this war.”
Take a scroll through the slide show to learn more about these tech gurus and how they are changing the face of tech.