Simone Quary | Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Unsplash User Domenico Loia
In today’s world, it is undeniable that technology plays an integral role in every aspect of life. It allows for the completion of simple and complex tasks within seconds.
Technological advances in the past millenium have also resulted in the rise of social media, which have given any person, regardless of their upbringing, a chance to voice their opinion.
The diversity prevalent among social media users has brought to question whether the same diversity is reflected within the the technological workforce. As for nearly all industries in the United States, there has been a call for more diversity in the workforce.
While technological powerhouses have taken steps to recruit minorities at colleges and universities, there are still many obstacles to overcome. In an article published on TechRepublic.com in 2017, Buck Gee, an executive advisor at the nonprofit Ascend, provides clarity on the adversities that different races experience.
“The diversity problems of each race are different,” Gee wrote. “In Silicon Valley, for blacks and Hispanics, the basic problem is getting in the door. The problem with Asian Americans in Silicon Valley is upper mobility to management.”
In 2018, Google’s annual diversity report showed the breakdown of hires of gender and race, with the overall workforce composing of 48.5% white, 43.9% Asian, 6.8% Latinx, 4.8%, and < 1% Native American. A clear gender gap was shown, with nearly 70 percent of males making up the entire workforce.
Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a critical role in the formation and functioning of technology itself, and results in innovations such as facial recognition. However, researchers have discovered unintentional racial biases in AI algorithms, primarily when identifying which patients benefit from additional health care.
Racial biases in AI algorithms also present themselves as police begin to embrace the use of facial recognition technology when identifying suspects, with an overwhelming amount of people of color being mistaken for crimes.
Encouraging the spread of diversity in the technological field can help reduce the social, cultural and institutional biases. Ally Minju Hong, a sophomore aeronautics and astronautics major attending MIT, hopes to be part of this change.
“STEM fields have an urgent need for more minorities as their driving force,” Hong said. “The very Snapchat filters we use and the machine-learning algorithms behind online targeting ads are just a few examples of AI. There’s been a few examples of discrimination by tech already (i.e., Google images deeming pictures of African-American women as sexually explicit at a higher rate), and if we include certain tech within anything essential, like our justice system, it may inherit or overlook the same biases the creators are having. After all, the programs are only as good as the code inputted by the programmers.”
The need for more representation among minorities in technology has been strongly encouraged at Hampton University. Professors and students alike understand the skills and unique perspective that they can offer to major companies.
Herman Robinson, a sophomore computer information systems major from Chesterfield, Virginia, describes his classroom setting for his core classes.
“We’ve learned that, in technology, not enough African-Americans are represented and not enough females as well,” Robinson said. “For instance, I’m in a computer science class here, and there’s only two or three females even though Hampton is a predominantly female school. In the future, I think technology companies need to stress the importance of having more African-Americans, and especially African-American females, be represented.”
Recently, HBCUs have gained the attention of major companies, and some, such as Google, have created immersion programs for high schoolers and undergraduate students for minority students. Having a healthy, diverse workforce in technology will enable it to progress in order to create a safe world.