Jon R. Moore is currently Director, Industries Marketing, Global Public Sector at Salesforce and President of the DC Hub of the Black Organization for Leadership and Development at Salesforce (BOLDforce). Jon holds a BBA in Business Management from Howard University and has over 15 years of B2B, B2C and B2G marketing experience in the electronic payment processing, digital philanthropy & cloud computing industries. Connect: Twitter | LinkedIn
2020 and 2021 left us with countless questions, and as we kick off the new year, one I keep coming back to is: what now? How do we take the lessons we learned about the importance of equity and accessibility - in light of the challenges that portions of our young population still face when it comes to connectivity - and translate them into action?
The simple answer is to invest in systemic reform initiatives, education/training programs, and technologies that are designed to serve and empower all people.
While simple answers may not always translate into simple action steps, maintaining a commitment to advancing the cause of equality for all remains essential to creating the world that future generations deserve.
Beyond buzzwords: Tech as a great equalizer
Last year, I wrote about closing the digital divide and the convergence of existing racial and socioeconomic inequalities exacerbated by the global pandemic.
These ‘pandemic years’ have marked history in a number of ways as rapidly evolving global health, economic and social imperatives have forced us to quickly adapt our behaviors and technology to accommodate new ways of living. As we’ve made the necessary adjustments, the depth of inequality of opportunity in our country (and our world) has become increasingly apparent.
Our societal institutions, particularly tech organizations, are now having to interrogate their commitment to true equity - beyond the use of buzzwords - and have a collective opportunity to rethink how their resources should be used to design a more inclusive world.
I place a specific focus on the tech industry because technological advancements have disrupted every other industry and are quite literally defining the future. Regardless of geography or background, the ubiquitous nature of technology places it squarely at the center of nearly every part of all of our lives.
Ideally, this is an industry that would include creators and leaders that are representative of the broad diversity of the populations that interact with these technologies. Yet, while STEM careers are projected to grow at a higher rate than any other industry in the next eight years, the tech industry is one where diversity and inclusion are woefully lacking.
In short, stakeholders across tech and tech-adjacent sectors have a clear duty and opportunity to leverage their platforms as the great equalizers of the future.
Starting now: A roadmap to a bright future in tech and beyond
So, why now? Now is always the best time to do the right thing, and we just happen to be living in a particularly opportune moment. This moment of heightened consciousness is valuable momentum to be, quite literally, capitalized upon.
Taking action for digital equity isn’t just the right thing to do for our society, it’s also the smart thing to do for our future. Today, we have more evidence than ever of why creating change makes good business sense alongside the desire to make positive societal change.
Recent research from McKinsey estimates that, had the achievement gap between white students and students of color been closed in 2009, the US economy would have grown by $315-525 billion. Had the achievement gap been closed between high and low income students, the economy would have seen still more significant growth.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 8.7 percent of the more than 88,633 bachelor’s degrees awarded in the computer and information sciences field in 2019 went to students who identified as Black, and only 10.6 percent went to students who identified as Latinx.
Are you detecting a pattern here?
The data tells us that structural inequality prevents us from leveraging the talent, contributions, and innovations of underrepresented gender and racial populations. What's more, those in the tech education sphere are uniquely positioned to address disparities of access, representation, and opportunity while simultaneously launching an exciting future for the next wave of business leaders.
Thus, diversity and inclusion initiatives are a smart investment in every sense of the word.
How to start: Blueprints for success
By normalizing inclusion and intentionality in all the ways technology, education, social justice, and business intersect, we can take the first steps towards a bright future for our society as a whole.
I think it’s helpful to think about this tactically through the lenses of access, empowerment, and stakeholder capitalism. Having recently seen all three in action through Coding Our Future Salesforce, I can attest to the real, life-changing power of intentional investments in equality.
This program is the outcome of a strategic corporate partnership designed to provide greater access to technology and high-quality education experiences to students from underrepresented populations. With input and collaboration from corporate and community stakeholders, this initiative leveled up access for hundreds of students from underinvested communities in seven major metropolitan areas in the US and Canada.
In addition to delivering in a tailored curriculum of courses that enabled students with a healthy mix of hard tech skills as well as soft skills for business and entrepreneurial endeavors, iD Tech partnered with regional leaders of Salesforce’s Equality Groups and a host of community nonprofit partners in each city to give students and their parents the tools they needed - laptops, affordable in-home internet access and the like - to ensure their ability to thrive in the camp setting and beyond.
Parallel to their training, students and their families were invited to participate in an empowering 3-week Executive Speaker Series that gave them exposure to a host of diverse luminaries in business and tech.
This experience and others like it are examples of how we can build game-changing pathways of opportunity. Initiatives like Coding Our Future provide students with the competitive edge they need to be effective participants in the digital economy and create the most highly-equipped talent pool we’ve ever seen.
There’s plenty of work ahead of us and, as we turn the page on this year and look to the next, I invite you to join iD Tech and the entire community of social innovators as we continue the work of investing in the young minds that are shaping our future; a future that is truly a reflection of our highest ideals.
To learn more about the Salesforce Coding Our Future initiative and how you can partner with iD Tech on similar projects, click here.