Equity in STEM? Addressing the ‘Leaky’ Talent Pipeline
with Allison Scott of the Kapor Center
While the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math are rapidly growing, diverse communities face barriers to job entry.
Allison Scott, CEO of the Kapor Center, joins host Tetiana Anderson to share how her organization is working from the inside to provide equitable pathways to representation in STEM fields.
March 31, 2022
Anderson: Jobs in STEM fields -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math -- are rapidly growing. But even with a lack of skilled tech workers, some communities face steep challenges in gaining access to the lucrative jobs in these industries. Today, we'll hear from one group that's working from the inside to provide a pathway to success. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Andersen. A good education and solid technical skills are essential for work in many fields, but in STEM fields, there are systemic barriers that can prevent people from even getting a foot in the door. Joining me to discuss all of this is Allison Scott, CEO of the Kapor Center for Social Impact. And, Allison, thanks for being here.
Scott: Thank you so much for having me.
Anderson: So you talk about this leaky tech pipeline phenomenon, and it's a really great metaphor for the challenges that the industry is going through. And I'm hoping you can describe what some of those are.
Scott: The leaky tech pipeline metaphor describes all of the barriers that exist across the four stages of what we call the pipeline, which is K-12 education, higher education, the tech workforce, and VC -- Venture Capital and entrepreneurship. So to give a few examples, we know that in K-12 education, only about half of students across the country have access to computer science in their schools. So that limits the opportunities that young people, people of color, low-income students have to explore computing careers. And that's just one example of a barrier in the leaky tech pipeline and one of the holes that we'd like to plug.
Anderson: So to your point, what are you guys doing to fix this leaky tech pipeline?
Scott: So, we know that the challenges are very complex and it takes more than just one organization. But here at the Kapor Center, we're focused on conducting research that articulates what the problems are. We operate programs to expand access to computer science education, to the skills needed to enter technology fields, and also to equip folks in the tech sector with ideas about how to create diverse and inclusive environments. And we're also focused on inspiring young entrepreneurs and investors to think about tech products and tech solutions that can address needs for communities of color.
Anderson: So, this industry is always evolving. There are so many changes at any given time. I'm wondering how you guys stay on top of everything.
Scott: The industry is always evolving, and as a research-driven organization, we maintain a focus on staying ahead of the trends, making sure that we're analyzing data consistently. And that is one of our strategies actually, is to put data out to the community so other folks understand what the latest trends are in technology. And one of the things that is important to continue to pay attention to is the lack of diversity and how little progress we've actually made over the last decade in who is represented in the tech industry, who is able to create wealth through technology, who's creating the products and how products may or may not be serving communities of color.
Anderson: And we can't forget, of course, about the financial benefits. I mean, you know, median tech salaries are far higher than the national average. But in addition to the annual income aspect, there's also a larger impact with all this, isn't there?
Scott: Absolutely. So, when we think about the lack of diversity and what that really translates to, like what are the implications of the lack of diversity in tech, absolutely income and disparities in income since tech wages are so much higher. Also, the opportunities to create economic mobility, to create wealth and even generational wealth through investing in tech ventures when we know that there are very few Black and Latinx and indigenous tech investors and entrepreneurs starting companies, but there's also who's at the table in creating products and whether those products are representative of communities of color or of the needs of communities of color and low-income communities. And then finally, we know that it's been an emerging topic of conversation around the harms of technology. So, the lack of diverse perspectives and diverse interests at the table in creating products and launching products and in making decisions about these technology products have significant implications for communities of color. So, things like algorithmic bias and the impact that it has on employment opportunities or your ability to get a loan or the criminal justice system, it's really important to think about who is at the table in creating those algorithms and those products that are being used.
Anderson: And so, Allison, I know that people are going to want to know more about everything you've just said. What's your website? Where can they go?
Scott: Please come check us out. We are at KaporCenter.org. We're based in Oakland, California, but we have programs and research and partnerships across the country.
Anderson: Allison Scott of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, thank you so much for being here.
Scott: Thank you so much for having me, Tetiana.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, log on to Comcast Newsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.