As the youngest of six children, my parents empowered me to live my dreams and achieve my life goals. But not every child is as fortunate. It’s 2022, and, still, millions of children across the country don’t have access to tablets, computers, the internet or other essential technology — and nearly 4 million tech jobs are waiting to be filled with fresh talent.
These children are affected by the digital divide because they lack the connectivity, devices and skills required for success in today’s digital economy. Meanwhile, there continues to be a dramatic disparity when it comes to female representation in the tech industry. Earlier this year, only about 24% of computing jobs are held by women even though they represent nearly half the population.
To make a bigger impact, I believe business leaders can no longer wait until the hiring phase of a potential employee’s life. Instilling these values and raising a new generation of tech savvy youth — regardless of race, gender or demographics — need to start as early as possible to be truly successful.
DEI in tech is a team effort
The first step to creating a diverse tech industry workforce begins in schools. When I was a child, my parents noticed I had a predisposition for math and science. They encouraged me to take advanced classes in high school. For the next generation of engineers, it’s not only about taking advanced courses but also providing students the resources and opportunities to engage with new technology.
Verizon’s Innovative Learning education initiative focuses on addressing barriers to digital inclusion through a suite of programs and resources. But resources are just resources. Part of the program is teaming up teachers and technology experts to create meaningful and lasting learning experiences that can inspire.
Broadening students’ experiences at primary and secondary schools is the foundation. Next, companies and businesses play a critical role in working with colleges and universities to recruit and attract talent. Developing proactive partnerships with higher education institutions is key for creating a diverse talent base that extends beyond operating communities and existing networks. Additionally, partnering with diverse member-based organizations, like the National Society of Black Engineers, is integral to exposing an organization to the widest pool of candidates possible.
Supporting diverse employees requires commitment
Inclusion then goes beyond hiring practices and job placement. Supporting diverse employees and providing them with platforms and programs to succeed is essential to retaining talent. From the commitment of the executive leadership to employee resources groups to bringing diverse populations together, corporations have the responsibility to create and foster an inclusive work culture.
I’m committed to each and every one of these steps that build toward a diverse tech industry. It begins with providing kids with access to technology and hands-on education in science, technology, engineering and math. But the mission continues and makes a lasting impact on lives and circumstances with the support of educators, business leaders and companies.
It’s a team effort to ensure that there is broader representation in the tech field and fulfill our joint responsibility of fostering the next generation of tech savvy youth.
Genia Wilbourn is senior vice president of Verizon Business Group’s business customer operations.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.