Black talent has long been underrepresented in the forever-growing tech industry. Despite the number of job increases in certain regions, only 3% of workers in tech represent the Black community.
A new report by the technology group TechSTL specifically highlights St. Louis region’s tech workforce. Among many factors, data published in the IT Labor Market Report last week confirms that the first year of the coronavirus pandemic saw an immense growth in the number of jobs, which brings the total to 86,000 tech workers in the region, St. Louis Public Radio reported.
Although companies moved to digital and the demand for tech workers increased, only 7.6% make up the Black tech workforce in the region. This lack of diversity sheds light on the historical patterns that continue to influence the industry which is predominantly employed by white men. The report notes that the workforce is 67% male and 79% white.
“This was the first place that we needed to start with in order for tech in St. Louis to really get up off the ground and start taking strides in the areas that we know that we need to be active in to serve the community,” said Emily Hemingway, executive director of TechSTL, per the news outlet.
Strengthen STEM Education
For TechSTL, achieving diversity is possible with a focus on amplifying STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—education and programs in schools.
“It’s in the entire educational pipeline of how we’re working with the area schools and addressing better access to STEM education, dropping the barriers to access, and making it easier for people who are coming from historically excluded communities. That [makes] it easier for them to get the higher-level training that they need to really navigate upward mobility,” Hemingway explained.
The membership-based technology council is currently compiling data on tech jobs among underrepresented groups thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation for researching and collecting data on barriers to entrepreneurship and economic success, the St. Louis-Dispatch reported. The intention is to target more specific sectors, like geospatial and cybersecurity, with the help of Lindenwood University and St. Louis Community College.
“We also know that demand for tech jobs outweighs supply, and to meet that demand we need to expand our focus and look to train nontraditional students and people from non-tech backgrounds,” Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis, said in a statement.