The Latino Technology Gap (part 2)

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.  Click here for part 1 of the Latino Technology Gap.

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

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

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: So it sounds like through this Tech Summit, you´re basically a facilitator. You´re bringing both sides to the table.

Wilkes: Yes.

Traynham: And say, look, we´re bringing talent to you, and look, not only are we bringing talent, but we´re also bringing the companies to the talent, make this work.

Wilkes: Yes, exactly, and then I think on top of that, we´re bringing the nonprofits that have been doing STEM work for a long time. LULAC and other organizations like the eSpida and the Asadas and the different organizations like LESA that have been focused on STEM and SHIP and saying, hey, we´ve got a lot of experience in the diversity space. We can help you because we know you´re just kind of getting started at this. And so that´s, I think, the C suite answer. I think we´re asking those folks who are in charge of diversity, come and talk to us. Talk about, you know, what your success has been, what your struggles have been, and let´s sit down and figure this out together because don´t kind of hide and say we´re not just successful. Come out and talk to us, and let´s figure out how to move the path forward. Because it´s too important. You know, more and more of our jobs are gonna be caught up in the gig economy, and we´ve seen it with now Uber, and we´ve seen it, of course, with Amazon, and we need to make sure our folks are getting the opportunity to work in these great companies.

Traynham: Last question for you, Brent. Traditionally — I´m dating myself here — it used to be that you had to work your way up the ladder. And perhaps when we get into the C suite, 15, 20 years into your career, maybe even 30 or 40 years into your career. Do we have to wait that long? Do we have to wait 30 to 40 years, maybe even 15 years, to see more diversity in the C suite, or do you think the time is now, and perhaps maybe we can see diversity within the next two years?

Wilkes: No, I definitely think that it´s important to see an accelerated path to more diversity in the C suite, and I think it´s important as consumers, we need to also say, look, we´re gonna hold companies accountable. You know, we have a lot of choices, we don´t have to use this company´s service if they refuse to reach out and to engage our community and give them a chance to have a role within these companies. So I think it´s important, as consumers are shopping for tech products and tech services that they think about, has this company been a good player when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

Traynham: Brent Wilkes, we look forward to having you back on the program, hopefully not in 15 or 20 years, but over the next year or two, to have a progress report. I really appreciate you coming on.

Wilkes: Thanks so much for having me on.

Traynham: Thank you. And thankyou for joining us, as well.And for more great conversationswith leaders in your communityand across the nation,visit comcastnewsmakers.com.I´m Robert Traynham.