I want to share an idea that’s been rattling around my head for a while. I figure, if I get it out and make it public, I’ll have to follow through. I might even find a few people who are interested in the idea as well, and that would be great too.
Let me start with the premise that technical fluency is now akin to literacy. Being able to use a computer and surf the internet (is that still a term?) is kind of like reading at primary school level. That’s where I am. In terms of technical fluency, I’m not that bad but nowhere near the literacy intelligence of my 16 year old. When setting up this website, finding a place to host it, and managing the plug-ins needed to keep it functioning feels like a huge accomplishment, but it wasn’t me I had to ask a dear friend as he is definitely tech savvy compared to me. With respect to technical fluency, that is pretty sad.
The thing is, I’m not alone. In fact, as far as I can tell, I’m ahead of the game when it comes to most of my friends. Same goes for women and black people. There’s a paucity of technological expertise among these underrepresented groups in technology. This is a real problem, not just for the community of people who are underrepresented in technology, but for our entire country. Women make up half of our population and, in fairly short order we’re going to become a majority minority country. Taken together, these groups might soon make up at least 60% of our country. Can you imagine what it would be like if 60% of the UK read at year 5 level or lower? Something has to be done.
That’s why I’d like to start an association or network for underrepresented groups in both the creative and digital technology industries, specifically engineers. Why engineers? The underrepresented groups I’ve mentioned above (and I think the LGBT community is underrepresented in engineering as well, though I’m not sure) do work in tech organizations. They mostly work as designers, community managers, and other jobs not on the tech side of these organizations. It’s like we’re creating new forms of pink collar work. It’s rare that you’ll see founders coming from community development roles in start-ups Founders are usually engineers or business development experts and those are decidedly male-dominated roles. Engineering and business development are also the roles you are least likely to see blacks and those deemed hardly reached in.
In order to change the power dynamics and to create this new level of literacy, I’d like to create an organization that has five goals:
- highlight engineers and founders who come from these underrepresented groups and promote them as stars in the community
- create more opportunities for members of these underrepresented groups to become founders
- fill the hardly tapped pipeline by reaching out to younger people and get them excited about careers in technology, and supporting those who are studying today to become the engineers of tomorrow
- create a community of support and a place to get together
- Start a very loud and visible dialog in both the creative and tech community in order to create an environment where more women and minorities feel comfortable becoming engineers etc.
I’d like to see a group unifying all underrepresented groups in the above mentioned industries because there’s power in unity and danger in being divided.
If you think back four years ago when Hillary Clinton was running against President Obama for the nomination, you could see how ugly it got when two underrepresented groups were vying for access at the same time. The same dynamic happened almost 150 years ago when the quest for universal suffrage led to black men being given the right to vote but not women of any race. Things got ugly, and two movements that were united turned on each other. And although my examples are American, the overall common thread is felt here in the UK.
Those are examples of the danger of being divided; the power of being united is evident. I don’t know what my role is in attaining the vision I’ve laid out here, but I want to be a part of the solution. I want to help correct what has gone wrong; deleted and blocked and open up the blocked pipeline for those seen as ‘hard to reach’ but really they are HARDLY REACHED.
I’d love to know who else out there is passionate about making this happen. If you’re that person, please leave a comment or email me directly and let me know. There’s plenty of room at the table. This is a big mission and it’s going to need a lot of people to make it happen.
 Pink Collar Work: jobs society has traditionally assigned to women, resulting from cultural beliefs and values as to what is appropriate work for women. Jobs thought of as pink collar include secretary, administrative assistant, nurse, flight attendant, day care worker, and maid.
 I use the term hardly reached as I do not agree with the govts., ideology / naming of individuals as ‘hard to reach’.