tech black students engineering diversity racial need
Diversity in the Tech Industry Begins in our UniversitiesThis Black History Month – the first since the global resurgence of a racialjustice movement – seems like a fitting time to reflect on the importance ofdiversity and inclusion in an industry where racial inequality still standsout: the tech industry, here in Portland and globally.Portland has been no bastion of racial diversity. At last count, the metroarea was 77% white and 6% black. But the tech sector as a whole is hardly lesslopsided. In 2020, it was reported that the mega-cap tech companies who hadvowed to prioritize diversity had made little headway in a six-year-longinitiative. So, it’s no surprise that when 2020 brought a national racialreckoning to America, many companies in the tech sector, including those inPortland, began taking a harder look at ourselves and the collective lack ofdiversity.Our test is how we address and correct these shortcomings, not just in 2020,not just in Black History Month, but on a continual basis. Those efforts needto begin in our schools. We know there is work to be done to championdiversity in the tech and engineering fields, starting with education. Forexample, in 2017 only 9% of college students graduating with a degree incomputer science were Black and only 10% were Latinx. Tech companies need toinvest more time, money and talent if they actually want to see change in theschools that will make us most competitive in the industries of the future. Tocreate a pipeline of diverse, qualified talent we need engineering programsheavily invested in attracting students who look different than the onestaught a decade ago.At Tektronix, we have begun this process by working with universities toexcite young people about building the technologies of the future, bringinghands-on opportunities and cutting-edge lab experiences to a diverse group ofcollege students. Having access to real-life experiences, from EV racing carsto 5G technology, is so important for today’s university labs, which areessential for tech’s future. But keeping Black engineering students on a pathto success means thinking about who is teaching them, and what efforts we aretaking to help retain them once in the workplace.That’s why I am proud to be Tektronix’s first chair of our Black ExcellenceMatter employee resource group. As a group, we not only provide support toBlack engineers across the company, but we help inspire action from ourexecutive team to create outreach and education opportunities for students. AtTek, we are committed to promoting technology access at HBCUs (HistoricallyBlack Colleges and Universities), as well as historically Hispanic-servinginstitutions, to lift up all students from diverse backgrounds and build newpathways toward our profession. Partnering with these universities is not justthe right thing to do from an inclusion standpoint, it’s the necessary thingto do from a business standpoint. At Tektronix, we can’t innovate into thefuture unless we have the most diverse teams to identify the challenges of thefuture.At Tektronix, we love the fact we can share the same equipment we used to helpmake ventilators last year and test 5G communications with university labs. Weknow having a professional setup doesn’t just make a university lab better, itmakes students more excited and prepared for professional-grade work. Tech ornot, all industries are different, but we have a common challenge to diversifywhere our talent pipelines stem from. That means not only looking to recruitin new places but creating new mentorship and apprenticeship opportunities togive students a leg up where needed.Of course, investing in educational opportunities for people of color isn’tgoing to be enough when facing the current makeup of the workforce in America.We also need to look at who is at the table now and work together to make surethat minorities in our organizations are being heard and supported in theircareers. The allyship we all show in and out of our work and the long-termactions we start now are the only way we can create real change for ourindustry.—Written by Mehmet Aslan, vice president of engineering and productdevelopment at Beaverton-based Tektronix.