I have mixed feelings whenever I read about the diversity efforts in the tech industry. On the one hand, as a Hispanic woman over fifty, I am certainly in favor of increasing diversity. There is research showing more diverse teams are more effective, and that only makes sense. Why would you think, for example, that a team made of males 25-28 years old would be the best group to develop an app for preschool children?
Personally, I consider it a strength having a team at 7 Generation Games that includes a person who has taught math at all levels from middle school to doctoral students (me), a parent of two young children, several college students and recent college graduates, an education major and an over-fifty father who taught himself calculus in the 8th grade and now has a high school daughter who is unenthused about precalculus.
We have all levels of experience in teaching and learning mathematics, from the perspective of parents, teachers, people who excelled in math and those who didn’t. We include students in our development, having had over 1,000 beta tests in the past year. (Thank you ever so much to the schools who helped us out, particularly in North Dakota).
Where I am bothered is when I read about efforts such as at Google where they are focused on the next generation of women and underrepresented groups in technology. What about the women who are here now? If you are really serious about increasing diversity at your company, you don’t wait a generation to do it.
A much better approach came from Sam Altman at Y Combinator who wrote about his interest in funding female founders. I was impressed enough that I actually looked into applying to Y Combinator. It does not fit into our plans right now – to be frank, we had a couple of other opportunities for more money with a higher probability of getting selected, so we applied for those. I am a statistician after all. Still, it is definitely on our radar for the future.
The not-so-subtle message that these “future generation” initiatives give is that all of the diverse players out there now suck – otherwise, why wouldn’t we be going after them instead of teaching middle school kids to code?
If you check out our core team, you’ll see that 2/3 of our founders are female and 25% of our staff members are Native American. Both Erich Longie and Carol Davis have doctorates. Carol has been involved in National Science Foundation projects to promote STEM on American Indian reservations for many years. Half of our company is Latino.
My point is that if a company, or an incubator, accelerator or anyone else, is serious about diversity then they go out and find people.
HELPFUL HINT: It’s never helpful to just rant without giving any suggestions for how to improve, so, here is my tip for today. I was part of a panel and Ernie had a demo table for us at the last East Los Angeles College STEAM event and we ended up hiring two interns from the people we met there. So, there is one resource that has paid off for us and the two people we hired worked out really well.