We learn about seven ways tech is changing for the better from 2020 and how female, LGTBQ+, and racial inclusion matter.
These are the 7 determining trends for technological work in this era of Covid-19 and social upheaval:
According to a report by Built-In, one of the fastest growing online communities for startups and tech companies in the U.S., the committed fight against racism, as well as for women’s equality and LGTBQ+ inclusion, trans people as the most vulnerable, tech is changing for the better as of 2020:
Built-In found, through its technology centers spread across the U.S., that the Covid-19 pandemic and the political earthquakes that shook the U.S. exposed that tech companies, while innovative, we’re not as progressive as they thought they were. This realization led them to a new way of looking at things, according to this online community.
“Our workforce is not diverse enough, the digital divide is wider than many would have liked to admit, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that some of the industry’s most revolutionary technologies are doing more harm than good. “But, to quote psychologist Nathaniel Branden, the first step toward change is awareness. While it may not have been comfortable or easy, this year has made us aware that we have a long way to go. It has also inspired promising efforts to help us get there faster.”
The technology divide became evident when the pandemic forced most people to “go digital,” yet one-third of low-income young Americans don’t even have high-speed Internet, while among higher-income youth that number drops to just 6 percent. The digital divide is further exacerbated in different ways in black and Latino neighborhoods.
On the other hand, technological advances, such as facial recognition, are increasingly being used as a tool of repression against migrants and minority communities, to cite just a couple of cases where something that seemed good is turning out to be the opposite of what it was intended to be. Amazon withdrew access to its facial recognition technology from the police while IBM CEO Arvind Krishna sent a letter to Congress announcing that the company was ending its facial recognition program as well as any other technology for “mass surveillance, racial discrimination, violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, or any purpose that is inconsistent with [its] values.” Microsoft said it would in no way give law enforcement access to its facial recognition technology until federal laws regulating its use are in place.
Sixty percent of those laid off during the first wave of the pandemic were women, with the greatest impact on black and Latina women. With children at home, due to quarantines, the burden became even heavier for women, affecting their careers. For women computer scientists and entrepreneurs, the discrimination they were already experiencing, with the lack of funding, was exacerbated. In addition, women and non-binary tech-savvy people are ignored by the media, creating the false impression that there are none or that they do not have the same value as their male counterparts.
“While becoming part of and succeeding in the tech industry has proven difficult for women and people of color, the road is especially challenging for the LGBTIQ+ community, particularly for trans people,” says Built In.
One in 4 trans people loses their jobs due to social prejudice. Discrimination when applying for jobs, harassment, even sexual violence, are common especially for trans people of color. Companies that have been proud of their trans and LGBTIQ+ inclusion had to face their discrepancies between their good intentions and the reality that hits, says Built-In, “Major companies, including Dell, Google, and Amazon, have had their controversies related to discrimination against trans and other LGBTIQ+ employees, proving that the tech industry is not immune to this reality”.
“The police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the ensuing protests around the world led many major companies to express their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The list includes Bumble, Airbnb, and Microsoft, to name a few,” Built-In says.
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the company’s board demanding that her seat be filled by a black candidate, which indeed happened a week later. Google created a specific program to help startups founded by black entrepreneurs accelerate the raising of resources.
Many black tech professionals have pointed out how easy it is for white executives at large tech companies to claim to support a more diverse and equitable workforce without actually doing anything meaningful about it.
Thus, a series of initiatives have appeared from companies like The Plug or Eskalera, which follow up on the promises of inclusion of large technology companies.
“This has been a space where people like to, you know, talk, talk, talk, but not put it into practice. We’re trying to make sure that both those who are on a leadership level and an individual level have the tools to deliver what they’re touting,” says Tolonda Tolbert co-founder of Eskalera, as quoted by Built In.
Meanwhile, other entrepreneurs of color have decided to take charge of the changes on their own, creating diversity-inclusive businesses and initiatives, with or without the help of large companies.
Dream Exchange, The Black Startup Collective, Medley, and Dream Hustle Code are just a few of these progressive initiatives and they occur at all levels, from the stock market to non-profits.
“Without that vision, without seeing someone who looks like you, who is successful in a certain space, you don’t want to try,” said Ian Brock the creator of Dream Hustle Code quoted by Built In.
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