Author Archives: coronino

The Talent Bowl of the World

Inaugural class of the CSIT-In-3 program, scheduled to graduate in 2016

Krista Almanzan’s great piece on Cal State University, Monterey Bay, and Hartnell Community College’s three-year, intensive bachelor’s degree program in computer science and information technology targeting the largely Hispanic Salinas Valley. Despite a successful first year, the program’s director, Joe Welch, faces the typical funding challenges as well as the larger issue of getting Silicon Valley companies to give these students an opportunity to apply their skills:

Connecting with prospective employers is where program organizers are already facing their own challenge. Welch says in trying to secure summer internships, they’re finding many of the brand-name, Silicon Valley tech companies are used to dealing with brand-name schools.

“Frankly, they’re so comfortable, they’re not reaching outside that student stream,” he says.

Many of the CSIT-In-3 students are from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and first-generation college students. Welch says he doesn’t want them to get a handout. He just wants Silicon Valley to give them a fair shake, especially since companies have said they want to give these students an opportunity.

Diversity Begins with Us

Unconscious bias is seen as a significant factor for the lack of diversity in organizations and industries. The idea focuses on individual biases, perceptions, and behavior. While organizational diversity and inclusion attempts can provide policy and process, these initiatives often fail to address the human element involved in developing an inclusive work environment. Organizations have developed interesting ways to try and overcome unconscious bias including awareness training, mentoring programs, and “resume scrubbing.”  Remarkably, Google, an organization with a 70% male workforce, shares a detailed overview of the concept below, and how we can try to overcome it.

Unconscious bias is a complex and wide-ranging topic, and it’s an issue that will get more attention here in the coming months, particularly when it comes to Latino workforce issues.

Diversity’s History: Is No One Listening?

I spent the morning today taking a journey through history.

With the recent discussion regarding the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley as well as other industries, I wondered how the discussion about diversity had changed over the last 40 years. What were the key arguments for a diverse workforce during the 1990’s,1980’s, 1970’s, and even the 1960’s? I jumped onto an online library and ran a simple search to find out. Most articles concentrated on the potential business outcomes: increased innovation; added competitive advantage; improved market share; and many other opportunities. There were certainly articles on the associated challenges (legal, policy, change, discrimination, etc.) but for the most part, I found over 40 years of information supporting the “business opportunity” of diversity.

What struck me about my journey, however, is how arguments for diversity haven’t changed, and more importantly, why haven’t they?

Graphic via Catalyst.org

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We’re All Immigrants

Graphic via Vox.com

A historical look at immigration through a lens of maps.

Later waves of European immigration killed off most of the first Americans (largely through European diseases, which traveled through the Americas much more quickly than European humans did). That set the stage for European Americans to rebrand the United States, in particular (where indigenous populations were almost completely “replaced”), as a “nation of immigrants.” Even today, America is still home to more total immigrants than any other country in the world. In this map, each country’s size is distorted to reflect the size of its immigrant population.

 

Moving the Goal Line

LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner examine how the increased emphasis on SAT scores at some colleges is helping to create a two-tier system in higher education – the first for Asian and white freshman and a second for Latino and black students. CUNY is one such institution:

At a time of massive and widening inequality gaps in New York City, CUNY has a responsibility to address these equity gaps within and across its colleges,” said Michelle Fine, CUNY graduate center professor of psychology and urban education. “I fear that we have lost thousands of talented and engaged students of color who are rejected by our senior colleges and yet accepted by other highly competitive private colleges and universities.

The basis of the article is this report which suggests the 2008 recession  forced colleges to raise SAT score requirements to manage the increased number of people entering college. Latinos and other people of color were systematically squeezed out:

As a result, beginning in 2009, the makeup of CUNY colleges changed significantly. The incoming freshmen at top-tier schools had higher SAT scores and GPAs than those in previous years. Many students that previously had been able to enroll in top-tier schools were now enrolling in second-tier senior colleges. And more freshmen with scores that would have previously allowed them to get into a four-year college program were enrolling in community colleges.

Dream It, Build It

Spare Parts opens this week. The movie is based on the true story of four undocumented Latino engineering students from Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix who compete in an underwater robotics contest sponsored by NASA and the U.S. Navy. They compete against 10 other colleges, including engineering powers MIT, Virginia Tech, and Duke.

Spoiler alert, the movie does have a happy ending.

However, despite their inspirational story, the students in film continue to face barriers that Hollywood can’t fix. One student working towards an electrical engineering degree needs our help.

The Financial Necessity of Diversity

Graphic via American Progress

In yet another article regarding “the new tech industry” and diversity, the question of whether it will serve as the silver bullet to address the old economy’s racial problems is asked. As we’ve read over the last months, the tech industry has significant diversity issues to overcome. Whether it’s education, talent, culture, or systemic – the lack of diversity won’t be solved anytime soon (sorry to say). Investing millions into new diversity initiatives is a positive step, however, it won’t change decades of cultural and structural barriers ingrained in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Even if they didn’t care about diversity for all its benefits, tech organizations should be intimately familiar with a large chunk of its market and potential workforce (women, Latinos, African Americans). Other industries are coming to understand how critical it is to integrate specific demographic groups into their workforce – not because its an HR initiative but because they see it as a financial necessity. Consider television networks that are losing market share to on-demand services:

Latino viewers are an increasingly important demographic for all networks. The Nielsen Company found that Hispanics in the US have over $1 trillion in purchasing power and represent more than half of US population growth between 2000-2010. Bi-lingual homes where both Spanish and English are spoken currently watch about 50% Spanish-language television, while English-dominant Hispanic households watch a mere 3% of Spanish-language TV. In other words, television networks need to win over this audience if they want to make up the shortfall left by formally loyal absconders. But at the moment few networks are catering for Latinos specifically.

The tech industry will only come to understand the opportunity of diversity when it’s presented in the form of profits/losses or market share. I think the industry will certainly come to recognize this in the long-term – which makes the future a bit brighter.

A Country of “Mutts”

Graphic via SeattleGlobalList

How will the 2020 Census manage the continued inter-mixing of ethnicities, cultures, and families? One Latino describes his dilemma:

Drew Largé, a 24 year-old University of Washington student, dealt with these generalizations as well, but with the opposite outcome.

“I’ve been programmed to identify myself as a Hispanic male because of the way I grew up and the people that I was around,” Largé said. With a Hispanic father and white mother, Largé was primarily raised around his father’s family. With a name like Largé and light brown skin, he was conditioned to identify as Hispanic.

The environment that Largé grew up in had a significant impact on his ethnic identity too, as it does with most biracial people. While he grew up in close contact with his Hispanic family, I am more familiar with my white family. Due to a long history of conflict and instability among my Hispanic relatives, I missed all of the weddings, family reunions and quinceañeras. Does that make me less Hispanic?

I agree with Elianne Ramos.

ElRamos