A lot of tech companies say they want to make progress on diversity and inclusion. Code2040, a nonprofit that gets its name from the year people of color are projected to be the majority of the U.S. population, argues that just saying that isn’t enough. Businesses need to act.
“It’s often positioned as an add-on,” Code2040 CEO Laura Weidman Powers said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “What really needs to be the case is to change the core of what you’re doing. We’re not saying, ‘Keep hiring the way you’re hiring and also do this diversity thing on the side.’ [We are saying,] 'You need to change the way you hire in order to be more inclusive.’”
Code2040 focuses specifically on “underrepresented minorities” — black and Latino/Latina students who have 18 percent of computer science degrees but only three percent to five percent of the jobs in Silicon Valley.
Powers said that since the nonprofit launched in 2012, Code2040 has found more and more support for its annual “fellows program,” which charges companies to connect them with talented minorities whom they might otherwise overlook. This summer, it will place more than 100 black and Latino students in tech offices.
But there’s still a long way to go. She said managers and employees, even the ones who mean well, often fall into traps that set everyone back — for example: “unconscious bias” training that doesn’t give attendees the ability to apply anything they learn.
“Talking about unconscious or implicit bias can seem to let people off the hook,” Powers said. “It’s been shown if you do unconscious bias training and it’s like, ‘Hey, everybody’s got bias,’ then the takeaway is, ‘Oh, phew, it’s not me! It’s just humans because we need to learn how to be scared of snakes so you make assumptions!’ You can get farther away from making progress.”
“Folks go to our trainings, they go back to their desks, and there’s half a dozen black and Latino interns who are working there,” she added. “They actually get a chance to see: ‘How inclusive is my culture? What is the experience of these individuals coming through?’ That makes a big difference, putting a face to the work and actually having a chance to build those skills.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.