Why the Digital Divide Is Still a Very Real Issue

4798 In a thoughtful essay posted last week, writer Jamelle Bouie explored the many reasons why White men might dominate tech writing and the tech industry. Bouie explained that implicit networks, rather than overt racism, are a root cause for the lack of diversity in the field. Not long after Bouie shared the piece via twitter, tech blogger/millionaire Jason Calacanis challenged his assertions, igniting a debate over whether tech's diversity issues stem from structural barriers or people of color simply not working hard enough (or their disinterest in the sector altogether). In his own blog post, Calacanis stated, "the tech industry and tech media should be extremely proud of what we've accomplished. We're the most open meritocracy I've ever seen in industry." For many, these sentiments were all too familiar.
Last year we saw a similar twitter debate arise over the all-White, all-male speaker lineup for the Brit Ruby computer programming conference. Conference organizers defended the homogenous speaker list, explaining that the panelists were chosen on "merit."

And of course, there was the Forbes essay by tech writer and entrepreneur Gene Marks, who explained what he would do "if he were a poor black kid" (which was compromised by the fact that he was none of the above). Chief among his ideas was to use "the free technology available to help me study" without realizing that his poor-black-kid alter ego might not have access to a computer, let alone the Internet (on top of facing the numerous challenges associated with poverty).  

These sentiments highlight the misperceptions that many in the tech community have about technology's ability to avoid the shortcomings of our society. Because technology has brought much of the world together, it is hard to believe that anyone was left behind in the process. However, people of color face real barriers to accessing technology and building successful careers in the industry.

This was the experience for Kimberly Bryant, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls Code. Bryant, a biotechnology/engineering professional with a computer science background, moved to Silicon Valley several years ago to launch a startup. When she began networking, she was shocked at how often she was the only woman and only person of color in the room, and how challenging it was to make traction. "For me, as a woman of color, even coming from a long career in corporate America, there's some resources and networks that I just don't have that a 20-some-odd year old college drop out from Stanford does. And that's a mountain that I have to climb every day," she said.

Source: Ebony Magazine | Tracey Ross
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