WiCipedia: New administration brings changes for minorities in tech

This week in our WiC roundup: Politics gets a bit more politically correct; breaking the hiring mold; how companies can actually create change; and more.

Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor

January 29, 2021

4 Min Read
WiCipedia: New administration brings changes for minorities in tech

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Politics gets a bit more politically correct; breaking the hiring mold; how companies can actually create change; and more.

  • With a new administration comes opportunity for change at every level, and that's just what has happened over the past few weeks. The white, male domination of politics may not be coming to an end any time soon, but women and BIPOC are slowly moving in and pushing diversity measures in the stodgy White House. Jessica Rosenworcel has become the second female FCC chair ever, NBC News reports, and she is also the first mother in that position. Additionally, the new rules package for the 117th Congress include several related to ensuring diversity measures in telecommunications, something that would have sounded like a joke just a few months ago. "The new Congress is expected to address consequential concerns around facial recognition technologies, the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural and urban areas, the risks of disparate impacts for people of color resulting from biased algorithms, and strong framing of civil rights in federal privacy legislation," a Brookings article explains. (See WiCipedia: Is Trump going to end diversity training in tech?) Figure 1: Out with the old, in with the new (Source: Pixabay) (Source: Pixabay)

    • New data on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting women's careers is looking bleak, Marketplace reports. Since the pandemic started, women have been leaving their jobs at four times the rate of men, despite making up more than half of the total US workforce pre-pandemic. The reason for the divide? Childcare. With so many children out of school, it falls on mothers to take care of their family, which is difficult to do when you're spending all day working. Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, explains that there are a few things companies and the government can do to ensure women are back to work, especially in tech jobs, after the pandemic is over, including retraining for new industries, rehiring women who previously left their jobs and a government-provided payment to parents on leave from work. Not only will these measures provide a bounceback after the pandemic is over, but they'll also help to equip working moms with more stability in the next pandemic. (See WiCipedia: Coming back stronger post-COVID.)

    • Even companies that are actively working to diversify their leadership may get caught in the tangled web of unconscious and cultural bias. The Harvard Business Review recently posted an article about dismantling systemic sexism and racism, particularly as it pertains to promoting women of color. Since tech is predominantly a white, cisgender, male industry, it's common that candidates who do not fit this mold will still be expected to adhere to it. For example, "Black candidates are more likely to be rated as unprofessional when they don Afrocentric versus Eurocentric hair, employers are less likely to hire a Middle Eastern woman who wears a headscarf, Latina women are twice as likely (compared to non-Hispanic white women) to say they must work twice as hard as their co-workers because of their cultural background..." the article states. To create real organizational change, HR departments will have to start coming to terms with applicants who may not look like their current employee base. (See WiCipedia: The Whitest Black Candidates & Conferences Take a Political Stand.)

    • So what can companies do to ensure they're creating equal opportunities for all types of applicants, since the current measures haven't worked so well? Fast Company put together a streamlined list of where companies are falling short and where they could level up. In short, it's imperative that the industry targets underserved populations from a young age; focuses on retention in addition to recruitment; and builds in diversity, equity and inclusion policies that become a framework for company culture. "Without fundamental change and a ground-up approach to increasing diversity in tech, marginalized communities will only face further setbacks and see progress backslide and the tech industry will miss out on the innovation that's only possible with diverse teams," the article states. (See WiCipedia: Minority numbers in STEM studies still lag.)

      — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading. Follow us on Twitter @LR_WiC and contact Eryn directly at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Eryn Leavens

Special Features & Copy Editor

Eryn Leavens, who joined Light Reading in January 2015, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before earning her BA in creative writing and studio arts from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. She also completed UC Berkeley Extension's Professional Sequence in Editing.

She stumbled into tech copy editing after red-penning her way through several Bay Area book publishers, including Chronicle Books, Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull Press and Seal Press. She spends her free time lifting heavy things, growing her own food, animal wrangling and throwing bowls on the pottery wheel. She lives in Alameda, Calif., with two cats and two greyhounds.

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