The Grio: Deciphering the new game in tech: Do businesses value diversity?

FotoliaVast wealth, massive disruption, formidable power — these are just the few of the big-ticket prizes behind some of the doors of the high stakes game known as the tech industry.

For many years, it has been an exclusive, members-only sort of sector but now, new players try to shoulder their way in to a seat at a table brimming with abundance.  There’s a new breeze beginning to blow in the thin, exclusive air of the tech giants’ offices in this country, and the direction seems to be that of a call to action for diversity. But with just as many complexities as entrants, how things will truly shake out in the long run is almost anyone’s guess.

The straw that seemed to break the proverbial camel’s back came a few weeks ago when companies such as Google and Yahoo released their diversity statistics.  The results were certainly not shocking to people of color currently involved in the tech and tech-related arenas.

Now, there seems to be a bit of arm flailing and hurried activity to create balance and diversity — but it might behoove us all to stop, analyze and ask: Why now?

“Well, (Facebook’s) Sheryl Sandberg helped to create a general conversation about male dominance in the tech world that kind of opened the door to conversations about people of color that was more legitimated inside of the tech space,” offers Van Jones, founding president of Rebuild The Dream and CNN “Crossfire” regular.

“But in addition to this, I think outside of tech, nothing else is actually working.  The rest of the economy is tough to find employment in, so the only other powerful place in the economy is Silicon Valley and the tech industry. I think these two things just lined up.  If the economy were great, we probably wouldn’t even be talking about this.”

Jones’ organization also spearheads the project #YesWeCode, which aims to train 100,000 low-income youth to become computer professionals in the world in 5-10 years and kicked off a new initiative with Prince during the recent hackathon at the Essence Music Festival.

“We’re an intermediary,” Jones continues. “We’re helping those organizations out here who are focused on training and aim to help them get jobs coding.  High potential/low opportunity, under 25.” Considering the number of impressions made at the Essence Music Festival via the hackathon, most would say an impressive first start is under the organization’s belt.

However, there are positions offered in tech that don’t require knowledge in coding such as marketing, publicity, ad sales, business development, and more.  So, what  happened with diversity in these subdivisions.

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"Diversity brings so much more to the table - and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech - we can only make it better. #YesWeCode is doing exactly that."
- Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple