Beyond Tokenism: Starting with Education

During this time of demonstrations and protests over race relations in the US, businesses and corporations are talking about adding diversity to their workforces. Will their moves have an actual impact, or are these nice-sounding words just more lip service?

For example, five years ago, the tech industry was pointed out to have few Latinos and even fewer African-Americas.  These companies pledged to change their ways and diversify their workforces.  Five years later, not much has changed.  Black tech workers at Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft accounted for less than 10%, often under 5% of tech workers.

Google talks about having a new goal of increasing the number of Black executives at their organization. What about increasing their numbers of mid-level managers, tech workers, even entry-level workers at the same time?  Will Google’s statistics be any different five years from now?

The Pipeline Dilemma

Sometimes those organizations with unmet diversity aspirations say there wasn’t a pipeline, that there weren’t qualified people that they could draw on.  How much was due to a lack of true effort in making that pipeline?  No one is born knowing how to do a job.  We are all trained.  My mom wasn’t born knowing how to program a computer.  Her workplace had a training program that she was placed into when she was 40. She worked hard and learned, and she excelled.

When I meet and talk to people of color, I learn what they do.  Oftentimes, they say that they are in charge of diversity and inclusion.  We do need strong people in those positions.  But, where is the person that says, I’m the CEO, I own my own business, I’m in IT, I’m in communications, I’m the agency head, I’m in marketing, I’m in human resources, I’m an accountant, I’m the engineer, I’m in the testing division, I’m a surgeon, I’m a dentist, I’m in development, or I’m in research?  People of color belong in those jobs too.  Widen the scope of what we know people can do.

The Education Solution

To make real changes in the workplace, to bring about progress, we need real commitment, strong training, actual hiring, retention help, mentorships, and internships – not just nice-sounding words. 

And most of all, we need to make sure we properly educate, train, and prepare all our Oregon students.  Every student, no matter their background – traditional or non-traditional, rich or poor, black or white, urban or rural – should have strong skills, solid tools, and a robust educational foundation.  Then children of color can be life-time learners and capable of taking advantage of every work opportunity. Then we will have achieved some measure of true equality.