Employment in science, technology, engineering, and math are growing at higher rates that other types of employment. And while many opportunities exist for work in tech fields, women, including lesbians, lag behind men in these careers. Mitali Chakraborty of Tech Jobs Tour discusses efforts to help connect women with work in the tech industries.  This discussion continues in part 2 (Technology Jobs and Diversity).

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Interview recorded on May 17, 2017.  Hosted by Robert Traynham.  Part 1 of 2.

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

Traynham: Jobs in STEM — which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — are growing at a higher rate than other fields of employment. Despite this notable growth, women account for less than a quarter of the STEM workforce. Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Comcast Newsmakers.” Im Robert Traynham, and joining is Mitali Chakraborty from the organization Tech Jobs Tour. Mitali, welcome to the program.

Chakraborty: Thank you for having me.

Traynham: It is always good to see you. Its interesting. I keep reading all of these articles or listen to the news. There is a sea of jobs in STEM. As I understand it, the vast majority of the people that are applying for these jobs are Caucasian. But I hear these Fortune 500 companies, Mitali, are saying, “We want more qualified people of color. We want people that are in the LGBT community. We want people that are different because the world is different now and its really browning and changing, but we cant find them.” Your response?

Chakraborty: So often, those companies that you are speaking of are based in these urban centers that are the technical centers of our country — right? — San Francisco, Boston, and New York. And theres this huge demand. Over half a million jobs right now, they say, are open in the technical field. And by 2020, that will balloon to 1.4 million jobs. So future of work and the future of talent for this country is being able to place individuals in those jobs. But often, these companies that are based in these centers, you know, hire what they know, hire what they see. And theres been studies proven and out there that theres actually not a lack of supply of workers. You just have to start going outside of the circles and the bubbles that you know to reach these individuals, and also start learning to assess people with different skill sets that might not have four-year computer-science degrees. Theres a huge growth in what we call coding boot camps and vocational ready programs. I say the best way to look at technical and I.T. jobs is the next-generation trade skill. And the vast majority of people that are graduating from these programs, 60% are found to be women, LGBTQ persons, people with disabilities, veterans, and so on. And thats what the Tech Jobs Tour is trying to do, is to engineer those relationships between nontraditional diverse workers and the employers that are looking to find them.

Traynham: Mitali, you mentioned employers need to get out of their comfort zone, and then you segued into this Tech Tour. Walk us through what this looks like. Is it 50 cities, 50 states over the next 500 days? What does it look like?

Chakraborty: We say one year, 50 city, 100,000 jobs. And the Tech Jobs Tour was born out of an initiative started in 2015 by President Obama, called the Tech Hire Initiative. And that initiative was really to address this issue of supply and demand, and how could we reach out to those that are most vulnerable and more disenfranchised communities and minorities, to be able to provide them an opportunity to learn these skills and then be placed in these open jobs. So, since 2015, 77 cities were designated Tech Hire Cities. And from the last White House summit, in December of 2016, our founder, Leanne Pittsford, kind of put just a big goal out there and said, “What if we continue to build momentum in these cities by meeting people where theyre at and go on the road?” And so often, you know, people that are skilled in Baltimore dont know how to even connect to their employers. And so, were going to help engineer those connections by hosting these events that are part career fair, mentoring, coaching, and workshops in 50 cities.