Last January, I read a Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover story, Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders. I was struck by it because it went to the heart of an issue that has bothered me for years.
The innovation economy has two fundamental, related problems threatening its growth and sustainability: (1) a severe lack of technical talent, leading to a persistent hiring shortage; and (2) a severe lack of diversity, leading to a monolithic perspective.
For some reason, and despite generally good intentions, the demand for talent and the supply of diverse talent has not corrected itself naturally. My conclusion, after reading the article and talking to many experts in the area, is that tech’s diversity problem is a market failure due to a fragmented talent pool of diverse candidates, under-resourced recruiting functions at startups, cultural friction and social networks that don’t naturally overlap. This problem was one that needed an intentional, strategic solution.
Inspired to address this complicated issue, a group of private and public sector leaders in Boston has been meeting over the course of this year. Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of Hack.Diversity, an initiative to increase the breadth of talent into our innovation economy. The program will be managed by the New England Venture Capital Association, which seemed an appropriate place given its role as a hub in the innovation ecosystem (and Hack.Diversity is similar to the student internship program, TechGen).
Hack.Diversity is bridging the gap between Boston’s innovation economy and communities of color. The program will recruit, train, and mentor Black and Latino computer science and engineering graduates throughout Massachusetts, and create a pipeline of opportunity into the innovation economy, while also coaching our companies on diversity and inclusion. The goal is to address both the severe lack of diversity in the technical ranks of our top, innovation companies and help students of color find attractive career opportunities in technology. Our first talent partners are Bunker Hill Community College, Resilient Coders, UMass Boston, WPI and Year Up. Our first employer partners are Carbonite, DataXu, Hubspot and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. In addition, we are building a mentorship network of dozens of executives of color in the Boston tech sector to link up one on one with each intern to help coach their pathway to career success.
A few articles written about the initiative can be found here:
If you’re interested in being a part of the program — as a mentor, employer, donor or aspiring participant, check out the website: www.hackdiversity.com.
If we can bring the two Bostons together to address the inequality and divisiveness in our community, we can create a shining example for others throughout the country.