How do we facilitate a collaborative discussion and strategy between the 100+ organizations that are in the space of teaching tech? These incredibly skilled leaders have limited resources but have great expertise in specific areas. Sharing best practices through open dialogue provides the perfect platform to learn together.
This past June, I attended the Teaching Tech Together Summit (T3) - the goal was to connect and learn, not only from, but with technology leaders about different approaches to teaching tech while being intentionally inclusive. Key word: intentionally.
Unless you have been in hibernation, it is no secret that technology companies are facing diversity issues. We have seen that some companies believe that hiring one or two folks of color is solving their diversity issues, while diversity advocates are constantly educating and supporting the companies to be more strategic and thoughtful in their diversity efforts. A few recommendations to companies include modifying hiring practices, ensuring the company culture is welcoming to all, and investing in initiatives creating a diverse workforce. By accepting and implementing these recommendations companies can maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Similar to technology companies, organizations and individuals teaching tech, including me at through Code as a Second Language initiative, need to challenge ourselves to maintain the same level of intentional inclusivity. At T3, I realized that in many of our missions we are committing to creating a more inclusive tech landscape, but we sometimes overlook the reality that our programs have implicit obstacles to participation for certain groups of people. A few of the key points to mitigate this, that were shared during the conference, included:
- Be aware of the language and images in outreach materials and activities
- The language and images a program uses can heavily influence who enrolls into certain programs. An image that lacks individuals of color will likely not attract diverse youth. All materials, activities, and instructors/mentors must be reflective of the target demographic.
- Create a welcoming and collective environment
- Develop community rules together to create a safe space where folks feel encouraged to participate. This includes creating a shared language around race, gender, citizenship status, socioeconomic status, sexuality, etc.
- Serve audiences we are not accustomed to serving
- What happens when a child with a disability or a transgender man wants to participate in our initiatives? We need to leverage the expertise of partner organizations that specialize in working with audiences we may not be familiar with and be open and flexible to ensure their comfort and success.
The summit provided an opportunity for all of us to be honest about the gaps in our programs and a space to openly discuss and provide actionable solutions to being intentionally inclusive. A few other golden nuggets I took away from summit included:
- If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it
- We need to know the impact of our work to ensure its sustainability. Create milestones to measure the impact so as not to feel overwhelmed at the end of the program.
- When developing partnerships be adaptable and collaborative
- If you are developing a relationship with a company or organization, go to the planning table together. Be nimble enough to create mutually beneficial programs.
- Scaling takes time
- We all want to take over the world and create wide-scale impact, but we need to be patient and fully build out our programs locally before expanding. Each market is different and will present an entire new set of challenges. We need to identify a champion in target cities who understands the local population and is plugged into local resources.
Overall, a very refreshing and reflective weekend. It's time to plan an audit of all my outreach and program materials for our programs to ensure I am practicing what I preach.