August 2020 Tech Upload

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NEW Digital News

Diversity in IT

In recent months following George Floyd’s murder by police in Minneapolis, diversity, and more importantly equity and inclusion, have become important stories sparking protests and conversations worldwide – sometimes even supplanting Covid-19. 

When looking at the IT and tech fields, it’s pretty apparent that we can do better at attracting and retaining a more diverse group of tech skilled employees. That said, employers can’t hire applicants who don’t exist, or exist in numbers great enough to make a difference in the candidate pool.  

That’s why the NEW Digital Alliance recently invited Art MuninInterim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs & Dean of Students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and faculty member for USC’s Race and Equity Center, to come and talk to our Higher Ed Committee.  

As an initial discussion, we mostly discussed the broader issues rather than solutions – that will come later. Art challenged us to frame the issue in ways we hadn’t considered. It’s typical to ask “How do we attract diverse people?” But instead we should be asking “What have we done to drive them away?” When we look at our organizations and practices, we are often going to find something that communicates a lack of inclusion. A simple example of this could be in the physical space – do you have pictures of star performers on the walls that are all white males? The Chancellor at UW Oshkosh removed the pictures of previous chancellors outside his office as they didn’t reflect diversity – whether racial or gender. 

It can be difficult for those who are leaders and have had success within an organization or field to imagine what might be problematic for diverse audiences because they themselves have had success in the environment. That can make it difficult to see how to change the system for those it’s not working for. Art shared the analogy of Michael Jordan as a coach. While he was a tremendous basketball player, he wasn’t able to effectively convey to others how to become great as it came very natural to him. 

 We were also challenged to set realistic number goals for diversity. We will follow up on this in future meetings as we discuss the data about higher ed enrollments and graduation rates that we collect every year. We currently collect data on gender diversity and moving forward we will look to expand this to racial or other types of diversity. 

 Why is the topic of diversity important to Northeast Wisconsin, and to our technology teams? First and foremost, Wisconsin is a “brain drain” state. More young educated individuals are leaving the state than entering. This means fewer job candidates overall for our companies regardless of position. When we then consider that more and more jobs are requiring digital skills and the growth in IT related jobs, we have to do better at reaching groups who are not currently highly represented in the tech sector in order for employers to have the talent they need for success. As the population of the country becomes more diverse, it becomes even more important to be attractive to those diverse populations. While we did not solve the world’s issues in the meeting with Art, we have started the journey toward a better tomorrow for everyone…one dance step at a time. 

What We’ve Been Up To

 In the past month, the NEW Digital Alliance has also: 

  • Continued our Innovation and Collaboration planning meeting with a kick-off meeting planned for August 13. 
  • Conducted the Breadth of Awareness kick-off meeting on July 8. The team had a great discussion and did some brainstorming on how to help create awareness of how technology can increase productivity within our organizations. 
  • Participated in New North’s ongoing Broadband grant discussions.  
  • Met with an exciting tech consulting startup with a mission to help build tech leaders in the region (we’d love to share more but are sworn to secrecy until they announce their launch!) 
  • Presented to the Mid-day Women’s Alliance on the state of digital skills and need for help increasing the skillset across the region, particularly for our displaced workers. 
  • Driven diversity discussion with our Higher ed committee. Guest speaker Art Munin helped us see how we need to focus on success factors and not deficits when discussing diversity initiatives. 
  • Continued discussions within the Talent Committee for how to migrate the NEW Connect IT event to an online platform. We’ve started researching tools that will allow attendees to register for and attend various breakout sessions and will make a decision by next month. 
  • Participated in statewide discussions to update the IT Career Pathways documents and make them more user friendly for high school students and their parents. 

We are All In

The NEW Digital Alliance is All In to help Wisconsin move forward! 

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