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Diversity in tech an issue, but industry trying to change with training programs

Posted at 10:07 PM, Aug 05, 2021

CLEVELAND — It’s not a secret, and the tech industry has a problem.

“It’s always been pretty abysmal,” said David Ferreira.

For David Ferreira, tech’s diversity issues are more than numbers. It’s his experience.

“I went off to college. I was the only Black person in my program there for four years," he said, “Being the only representation of my race.”

When he reached the professional world, things got a little better. He was no longer the only Black person he worked with. But Black people and other minorities were still wildly underrepresented.

White people represent 60% of the US population but 78% of the tech world. Minority groups in tech make up just over half (22%) of where they stand in the real world (40%).

Tech Elevator, a coding boot camp company where David is an instructor, is trying to make a dent in those numbers.

“Here at Tech Elevator, because we have that scholarship that we talked about, we can actually just make it seem that the workforce in our classroom matches what society looks like,” said Ferreira.

Tech Elevator’s Represent Tech Scholarship is available to anyone a member of an underrepresented group in the industry.

So far, it’s paid for all or almost all of 135 students’ tuition through the program. Those recipients have gone on to make a combined $337 million in life time earnings, according to the company.

Jasmine Brown had been looking for a change after spending seven years as a speech therapist.

“With speech pathology, there really isn’t too much to do other than being a speech therapist. It wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t feel the field, and the passion wasn’t there,” said Brown.

85% of her tuition is taken care of because of the scholarship.

“That was the only way I was going to be able to come, was with the scholarship," she said.

She loves the program but growing up, and she never saw this career as an option.

“When I was younger it was just something I didn’t really think about just probably because I didn’t see myself represented,” said Brown, “I have a lot of families that’s in education social work, things like that and so it just seemed natural to go that way,”

She didn’t have an example or role model in this world, so she never thought it was an option.

The hope is this scholarship will help build the pool of qualified coders, so diversity in tech can grow. And tech elevator isn’t the only one offering scholarships.

A quick search on shows 25 scholarships available to minorities and the same number to women.

“You have that network starting to build of candidates who are used to and willing to vouch and reach out to folks of different backgrounds,” said Ferreira.

While the pace of change is still slow, Tech Elevator hopes to make the industry look more like the world we live in.