We can’t find qualified women or people of color – On that I call “Bull!” – Diversity and Inclusion in Technology

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After college I was an aspiring Mortician who took a chance and entered a corporate coding bootcamp.  I learned to program in seven languages in 13-weeks and emerged as a mainframe programmer.  That decision to venture into technology changed the trajectory of my life.  However I was often the only woman and African-American at the table.  The lack of women and people of color in technology is not new, however we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve always done and expect a different result.  Unfortunately as we try to bridge the gender and racial gap in technology, the people we are targeting are missing from the tech inclusion discussion. There’s no need to continue “guessing” what we think.  Simply cut out the middle man, invite us to the decision making table and we can tell you in real time. We have real experiences and can offer real solutions.  A major example of being deliberate and thinking outside the box is the partnership between Google and Howard University to set up a satellite campus at Google’s headquarters in an effort to bring more African American computer science students into the tech industry. This is a perfect example of Diversity and Inclusion at work!

As statistics are looming about the lack of tech talent to fill jobs by 2020, diversity has become a buzzword in corporations and bootcamps are popping up everywhere.  Having served as a Chief Diversity Officer for many years, I definitely understand first hand that unless Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are formulated by a group diverse in thought, race, gender, experience, etc., the strategy will more than likely fail.  All too often during these conversations, everyone around the table looks the same, comes from the same background  and thinks the same. This can even happen within a diverse group, which is why intentional inclusion is so very important.

Unfortunately there is no one there to speak from a different perspective, initiate the uncomfortable conversations, or question the status quo.  Left unchecked, organizations will continue to formulate and believe the excuse,  “We tried to hire diverse candidates, however we just couldn’t find qualified women or people of color to fill the positions”. On that I call “Bull!”  

Another trend is the number of bootcamps popping up targeting the underrepresented and untapped communities.  Many bootcamps are receiving financial incentives in grants and other funds to fill their seats with people of color and women.  While there are some that are doing a tremendous job, there are still questions that should be asked. Who is at the table to ask the questions and foster an environment of accountability?  A few questions that jump in my mind are:   How many women and people of color apply to the bootcamp?  How many are actually interviewed?  Most importantly how many are accepted?  Out of those not accepted or interviewed, what’s the reason?  If you claim you are providing jobs, how many are truly placed in “tech jobs”?  How many don’t complete the camp, and why?  This is not an indictment,  however you can spin a story, but the data does not lie and the results can foster a robust and much needed conversation about next steps.

If you represent an organization or a boot camp and you are really serious about Diversity and Inclusion in Technology, its up to you ensure that your organization is intentional about inviting a diverse group of people into the conversation.  If you find that the target audience is absent from the table, speak up.  If you are a person of color or woman and have a seat at the table, and are afraid to speak up (it’s OK – there’s no judgement) I ask that you consider giving up your seat to someone who is willing to be the voice of those who are not being heard.

My greatest fear is to “say nothing” and hear people making excuses in the year 2020 about how they tried to engage people of color or give us an opportunity, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out.  No matter your race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, etc.  Diversity and Inclusion is about EVERYONE feeling valued, supported and respected.

If you’re contemplating bridging the gap in Diversity and Inclusion in Technology, are you willing to do something different?  If you feel stuck or want to continue the conversation…Let’s talk!

Marlin Williams
Diversity and Inclusion Strategist
Founder, Sisters Code
marlin@sisters-code.org
313-575-4078

 

 

 

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Billy Watts, Jr. Memorial Scholarship

 

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October 2014, 17-Year old high school senior, Billy Watts, Jr.’s documented his life and death on social media.  After months of battling depression, Billy’s vibrant life ended as he shared many photos via Instagram leading up to his death.

I didn’t know Billy personally, but when I was alerted to view his social media timeline before his death, I felt immediately connected to him.   I felt as if he were my child, I felt a pain that was unbearable which lead me to write a blog post about Billy’s death.  After the blog was posted, Billy’s family reached out to ask me to speak at his funeral, and I was honored to do so.  Many of Billy’s friends felt a sense of guilt as they “liked” the photos preceding his death, without understanding that he was crying out for help and many adults felt helpless as they attempted to navigate the world of social media so passionately used by teens.  The intent of my message at his home going was to connect with the students and adults in the church to foster a spirit of self-forgiveness, unconditional love, uplift the village, and ultimately celebrate Billy’s life.

Please take a moment to read my blog post from 2014 as my offering to Billy, his family, and all of our babies.  I offer this blog in honor of Billy and share some tips with parents and teens on things you can do to save the next life.  The post can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1FZDw78.

To further honor Billy and his love for music, The Billy Watts Jr. Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a high school senior attending Detroit Renaissance High School.  If you know of a senior at the school, please feel free to pass along the information and have them apply at the school’s counseling office.  We are also having scholarship afterwork fundraiser on May 19th in Downtown Detroit.   Please see  https://billywattsjrscholarship.eventbrite.com for more information.

I think about Billy often…..He will never be forgotten.  His story must be shared as it could be the catalyst for saving a life.  So, today I celebrate his life and will strive to make a difference.

#RIPBILLY

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Detroit’s Digital Divide: My Point of View as a Detroiter

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I recently had an opportunity to participate on a panel during the Detroit Regional Chamber Of Commerce Policy Conference.  The panel topic was, “Combating the digital divide: Detroit Disconnected.”  Although that particular discussion has ended, it has not left my radar as this topic is very important and the solution is not “cookie cutter.” Nor do we want the digital divide to be the “flavor of the day,” or project of the month, it’s way too important.

According to the FCC 38% of Detroit residents don’t have broadband at home. For low-income households the percentage is a staggering 63%. This is where the cost of the digital divide becomes a greater conversation. Digital exclusion removes the option for people to fully participate in education, employment, health care, politics, business ventures, the economy and much more. Diversity and inclusion are often thrown into the conversation, but we have to be intentional.  Diversity without inclusion means nothing.  The population affected is diverse, however they must be included at the “decision making” table.  The table should include diversity of thought, race, gender, socio-economic status, and people who personally understand how the lack of access to technology shows up in the neighborhood and how it ultimately affects the community.

Last year I helped to coach a middle school team as they were challenged to develop and code an educational solution related to homework.  As I closed the door to speak with my team, it was evident that they were not familiar with the concept of coding and they felt very intimidated by the entire process.  One student stated, “We’re not good at this, I feel dumb.  The other kids are better than us.”  After explaining the concept of coding, I spent about an hour working with them on self-esteem and dispelling the myth that they were less than.  Interestingly, when I spoke with their teachers I found out that the students didn’t have a computer lab or a technology curriculum.

It was also very interesting how the embarrassment of not knowing showed up in student’s behavior.  However I was very aware that the “acting out” showed up as a defense mechanism.  These weren’t “bad inner city children” (sidebar: we must not be quick to stereotype and consciously challenge our unconscious bias), these were students who merely needed some insight and someone to convey that it’s OK not to know and that not knowing does not translate into being dumb! Once again, this drives home the importance of annihilating the digital divide.  The aforementioned story spirals into so  many tenets ranging from: confidence, self-esteem, the trajectory of a young life, and options which could be re-directed with access, exposure, education, behavioral misdiagnosis and the tools needed to succeed.

Often times we think we have to individually begin some huge movement to impact change, and that is not the case.  There is power in the first step.   As I have a seat at some “tech tables,” I NEVER forget from whence I came, I remember what it felt like to be educated in inadequate facilities, I’ve felt the embarrassment  of “not knowing” as much as my  peers as it related to technology, I will not belittle the feeling of sometimes being the only woman and woman of color with a seat at the tech table, I will continue to unapologetically defend women, ethnic minorities, the underserved community, and ANYONE when I’m privy to conversations that act as if the aforementioned groups aren’t real people with concerns that matter, all with the understanding that I too have a responsibility to effectuate change.

Although my circumstances have changed, I will continue to ask questions, start conversations, search for answers and implement things that will help and most of all remember that I am every day people here to empower and give voice to every day people.

No one should be left behind.

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Marlin Page is a Globetrotting Speaker, Technology Strategist, Media Contributor, Entrepreneur and Author.  As a former Coder, CIO, and Founder of Sisters Code, Marlin serves as a STEM Advocate and thought leader on bridging the gender gap in technology and eliminating the digital divide by engaging under served communities.  Marlin’s book and music CD, “Always Believe.” empowers young girls to love themselves, believe in themselves, and celebrate their uniqueness.

Speaking and Media Requests: Sandra@sisters-code.org or call 313-575-4075

 

 

 

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2016 Goals – Consider doing this before setting ANY goals

My Intent and Purpose Statement and three words!

My Intent and Purpose Statement and three words!

2016 Pre-Goal Consideration Idea: I thought of this last year and it worked for me, so I feel safe sharing it with you.

Before you write down any goals take some time to be still and think about your overall “LIFE INTENT and PURPOSE.” By doing this you :

1. Become very clear about the engagements, movement, activities and conversations you will participate in and identify those which align to your Intent and Purpose (great way to say “yes” or “no” to opportunities or obstacles)

2. Won’t rush to write your goals (this is not a race and you are not in competition). Sit with your intent and purpose until it feels real to you. This may mean writing goals in February, be kind to yourself and know that’s OK.

3. Identify your three words. Write down three words that epitomize who you need to be, characteristics warranted, or actions you feel support your Intent and Purpose. You may write down 30 words at first, but take all the time you need to identify the top three.

My three words are: BOLD, FOCUSED, and PRESENT.

4. Write down your Intent and Purpose and three words. Keep these in front of you as you write your goals. You will find that it will be much easier to write goals that are aligned with your statement and eliminate goals that may be things you feel obligated to do but aren’t truly in your heart, and simply look good on paper.

5. Throughout the year, life will happen and your goals may change. If you keep your Intent and Purpose in front of you, you will find it easy to consciously adjust your goals. Although life changes, the essence of who you are (your intent and purpose pretty much remains a constant).

My intent and purpose is to motivate, empower, inspire, educate, mobilize, and give back, so I truly hope this helps someone to take the angst out of goal planning and to empower you to make this process your own personal journey.

Wishing you all a great New Year! I’m SO very excited about experiencing God’s radical favor and the amazing things that are waiting me in 2016 Looking forward to sharing the journey! #noexcuses

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Marlin Page is a Globetrotting Speaker, Media Contributor, Entrepreneur and Author.  As a former Coder, CIO, and Founder of Sisters Code, Marlin serves as a STEM Advocate and thought leader on bridging the gender gap in technology and eliminating the digital divide by engaging under served communities.  Marlin has a passion for empowering women not only in STEM, but in life as the “Excuse Annihilator” inspiring them to eliminate excuses for not following their dreams.  Marlin also created a line of No-Excuses T-Shirts and Motivational Products.  Marlin’s book and music CD, “Always Believe.” empowers young girls to love themselves, believe in themselves, and celebrate their uniqueness.   As “Chief Technology Mommy,” Marlin shares “real life” stories and provide practical tips to empower parents to keep their children safe online and encourage teens to use social media responsibly.

 

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Social Media Day: Panel Discussion – The role technology is playing in the resurgence of Detroit

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This weekend I was recognized as a Guest of Honor at Social Media Day in Detroit, for my commitment to “Awakening the Mature Geek.”  In 2013 I founded Sisters Code with a mission of empowering women and underserved populations in STEM and Life.  The other honorees are amazing men and women who are committed to rebuilding Detroit through technology and the spirit of giving back.

The highlight of the evening was serving as a panelist to discuss the role technology is playing in the resurgence of Detroit.  I’ve served on many panels, but this was one of the most diverse and radical which made for a very lively discussion.

If you live in Detroit, you will no doubt see the  transformation of the Downtown and Midtown areas.   The aformentioned areas are full of tech start-ups and garners the most attention from potential funders and the media.  However, our conversation during Social Media Day made us all pause to answer  questions such as:

1.  What are we doing to ensure the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood have access to the funding and resources needed to participate in the resurgence?

2.  What are we doing about the digital divide which is evident in the City?

3.  What about our Detroit Public School students who don’t have adequate in-school technology or access to technology?

We were there to talk about the role technology is playing in the resurgence of Detroit, and frankly if we stopped for a moment to ponder those three questions we would find answers not to the role technology SHOULD play, but what we as panelist COULD do to bridge the technology gap and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in Detroit’s rebirth.

With Detroit being dubbed the next Silicon Valley, it is totally unconscionable that our children don’t have computer labs, access to computers, or email addresses.  The people who have built businesses in our neighborhoods to ensure everyone has access to their services, should definitely be included in the technology conversation taking place, including access and dollars.

Understanding that a problem without a solution is just an excuse, Sisters Code advanced students are designing free websites for neighborhood businesses who don’t have a web presence.  We feel this is a win-win, as the women have an opportunity to add their work to their resume and build their portfolio while we empower business owners with a new website.

At the end of the panel we had not solved all the issues, but we all left more committed to do our part.

The role of technology in the resurgence of Detroit will need to include all Detroiters, especially our children and it will take those of us who have benefited to be engaged.  This is our reasonable service.

Listen to the Podcast hear

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