Capital One took over Austin’s famous blues nightclub Antone’s, and turned it into the Capital One House at SXSW. The company held a series of events including interactive sessions and meet-ups.
One session, “Preparing Our Communities for the Future,” gathered business and social impact leaders to discuss diversity in tech. Everyone knows this stubbornly remains an issue, but these leaders were gathered to offer concrete solutions.
The session’s panelists included Dan Restuccia, chief analytics officer, Burning Glass Technologies; Julie Elberfeld, SVP, shared technology and executive sponsor of diversity and inclusion for technology, Capital One; Tom Ogletree, director of social impact, General Assembly; and Garrett Moran, president, Year Up. The panel was moderated by Catherine Foca, President, Capital One Foundation; Sr. Director, Capital One.
Here are some great takeaways from the engaging discussion.
Some of the issues that are contributing to the lack of diversity in the tech sector:
- With only 30% of Americans with four-year degrees, we need to understand what are good jobs for Americans without degrees, especially young Americans. There is a significant decline in middle-skilled jobs (trades, manufacturing, clerical, and so on).
- Employers may not know where to look for the people who have the skills they want, so they may resort to traditional hiring pools that do not lend to diversity.
- Good hires don’t always come through traditional channels. Human Resources divisions need to go outside traditional screening practices, such as college degrees or previous places of work
- Eighty percent of middle-skilled jobs require digital skills. Building these skills is key to unlocking access to twenty-first century jobs. The problem is that training programs have not caught up to the job market. “Digital skills change fast, training programs typically don’t,” said Restuccia.
- Companies need ways to reduce risks within the hiring process, so that it is easier to hire individuals from outside traditional pools. The often easiest way to derisk hiring is to promote rather than hire. Train employees in new skills, and then move them to more tech-focused positions. This also fosters a sense of loyalty in the employees, who also already know the company’s goals and understand its culture.
- Internal company training programs can start with basic productivity software, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and so on. Studies show that doing so can result in approximately a 20% pay raise. Add in more advanced digital skills—such as video skills, basic computer programming, basic computer networking, and social media—and you start to see people without four-year degrees reach the top of the fourth-tier income level.
- The corporate sector and small startups can build coalitions with organizations that train youth and adults in tech skills, like Black Girls Code, Per Scholas, Lesbians Who Tech, Year Up, Girls Who Code, and so on. Employees at companies can be advocates and champions for bringing in talent from these groups.