The Latino Technology Gap (part 1)

with Brent Wilkes of the League of United Latin American Citizens

National Science and Technology

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment rates in tech fields are expected to grow at a rate faster other types of employment. In spite of this growth, certain minority groups remain underrepresented in the tech job market. The Latino community comprises 18 percent of our nation’s population, but makes up only 4 percent of employment in tech fields.

Brent Wilkes, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens joins Robert Traynham for a discussion on diversity in STEM and the Latino tech gap.  This discussion continues in part 2 of the Latino Technology Gap.

Interview recorded Sept 6, 2017.  Hosted by Robert Traynham.  Part 1 of 2.

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

The top tech firms in Silicon Valley employ over 240,000 people. However, only 4% of these employees are Hispanic, and the percentage is even lower for those in leadership positions. Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Comcast Newsmakers.” I´m Robert Traynham. Joining me is Brent Wilkes. He´s the CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Brent, welcome to the program.

Wilkes: Thank you so much for having me on.

Traynham: So, Silicon Valley is the happening place. It has been for quite some time. There are tens of thousands, if not millions of people that aspire to work in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields. Everything from gaming to software, I mean, you´re going down the list. But what´s unfortunate, as I just mentioned a few moments ago, the lack of diversity, particularly in leadership positions, is really telling, no?

Wilkes: It absolutely is. It´s very dramatic because the population in the area is actually pretty heavily Latino and heavily minority, and yet, that´s not reflected in the companies that are working, that are placed there. So there´s this huge difference between the general population and then who gets to work in these really amazing companies.

Traynham: So Brent, some of the conversations I´ve been having over the last couple years from the technology folks, they´re saying, “We get it, we understand it, we´re not living on some other planet. We can´t find qualified people to fill these positions.” The other side of the coin, some people are saying, “They´re not knocking on my door. They´re not in my community. I will send in my résumé, but I don´t get a phone call back.” Is the truth somewhere in the middle here, or what´s going on?

Wilkes: I think the truth´s more the latter, which is that they have not really been making an effort to reach out and recruit. You know, I think they started out hiring their friends. A lot of them went to these top universities, and they hired the folks that were around them in those universities. And you know, they didn´t worry about diversity, and they pretty much ended up hiring a lot of folks that look a lot like they are. And as a result, they did not have diverse institutions. And as they´ve started to become larger and larger companies, it´s become glaring now that you´ve got, you know, companies that are very large, that are major employers in the United States, and yet, their workforce doesn´t reflect that. I think that´s where the concern is because they´re starting to replace the old economy with the new economy. And the old economy had a lot of inclusivity in it, and the new economy is really struggling to keep up with what the old company was doing.

Traynham: So Brent, what is the solution? How do we get to where we know where we need to go — where there´s much more diversity not just in the factories and the folks that actually make things, but in the C suite, where the decisions are being made? How do we bridge this gap here?

Wilkes: Well, I think that we have to do our part first. And for LULAC, that´s been working on STEM issues, and we´ve been the leader in terms of developing programs like the Science Corps that works in middle school to really get students excited about Math and Science to our technology centers, where we have 68 different locations, and we´re helping folks learn advanced computer science and coding and being able to be prepared for this opportunity to just getting folks into these great universities so they can get the kind of degrees that they need to be able to apply for this work. But by and large, I think the community´s done that job, and there are lots of great candidates, as you mentioned, that are out there ready to engage in this line of work. And so that´s where I think our focus is at the moment which is, how do we now get an opportunity to apply and put our folks that we´ve helped to get into these positions, you know, in front of these recruiters so that they do have a chance to work for these companies. And so that´s why we´ve created this new Tech Summit. The Tech Summit is focused on bringing all these great applicants to the Tech Summit, but also bringing the recruiters and the people in the diversity shops to the Tech Summit to have a chance to sit down and talk to them both about, how do you get a job in these companies? But also just to interview.

Traynham: This conversation is only beginning. Click the link below for more of our discussion.