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techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

Why industry and education must collaborate to solve the tech talent gap,fight sexism and ageismRedfin CTO Bridget Frey; Galvanize Chief Legal and People Officer StephanieDonner; Microsoft General Manager of Talent, Learning and Insights JoeWhittinghill; and OfferUp Vice President of Engineering Peter Wilson at the2016 GeekWire Summit. Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire.To those in the industry, the tech talent gap and diversity in the workforceare almost becoming tired subjects.There are many thousands more tech jobs being created each year than there arequalified candidates — in Washington state alone, there are about 3,700 techjobs created each year, and only 500 candidates who graduate with computerscience degrees. At the same time, the workforce is increasingly made up ofyoung, male, white employees.Scott McKinley, Dean and CEO of Northeastern University’s Seattle campus.Photo: Northeastern University Seattle.Scott McKinley, Dean and CEO of Northeastern University’s Seattle campus, saysindustry and education must stop “finger pointing and whining” and worktogether to solve these challenges.“There are people that are trying to chip away at this problem,” McKinleysaid, speaking at a panel on higher education in 2016 GeekWire Summit.McKinley cited coding bootcamps and apprenticeship programs, like the WTIA’sApprenti program, which are opening new pipelines into the tech industry, buthe said these solutions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes totraining and hiring qualified, diverse employees.“We have this square peg round hole approach to our PR systems,” McKinleysaid, meaning fully-qualified candidates will be left out of the workforcebecause they don’t fit a cookie-cutter image of a new tech hire, or don’t comefrom the top schools.The panel agreed that sexism and ageism are huge barriers to increasingdiversity the tech workplace, partly because women and older candidates oftendo not have traditional Computer Science degrees. We have this square peground hole approach to our PR systems.Bridget Frey — CTO of Seattle-based Redfin, which has increased their femaleengineers to 30 percent of their team — said a core part of the company’sdiversification was accepting candidates from nontraditional backgrounds, likecoding bootcamps or those who have come from other industries.Joe Whittinghill, the general manager of talent, learning and insights atMicrosoft, said that the company has also begun taking into accountunconscious bias — subconscious prejudices that can influence our thinkingwithout us realizing it.“We don’t know where the next talent is going to come from, and it isn’talways going to be the people who look like us or talk like us,” Whittinghillsaid.“Even in the interview process, people are unknowingly screening out people weshould be hiring” as a result of unconscious bias, he said.Panelists discuss ageism and sexism in tech at the 2016 GeekWire Summit.Photos via Dan DeLongThe result is a highly competitive hiring environment, with top tech companiespoaching talent from each other in an effort to stay on top.OfferUp’s Vice President of Engineering, Peter Wilson, said this kind ofpoaching is actually a waste of resources.“I think the motivations of corporations are all wrong here,” Wilson said. “Wepiss away this money in a zero-sum game stealing engineers from each other.”Wilson said the cost of poaching an engineer is about $75,000, but only$43,000 to spend a year studying computer science at Northeastern.While there are many complex challenges to training a more diverse techworkforce, battling prejudices and putting resources towards more broadeducation are simple places to start, the panel said.And although there is a lot of work to be done, the energy of today’s speakersand audience members made it clear that innovative solutions are just aroundthe corner.Editor’s note: The education panel was a sponsored session at the GeekWireSummit.

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