Cracking Tech’s Diversity Code

Darnell L. Williams
President and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts

Facebook: @ULEM

Technology is one of the fastest growing industries in Massachusetts and its largest employer. Last year, the tech sector in Massachusetts added 9,400 jobs to the economy, but far too often a large swath of the population was excluded from these job opportunities.

A recent self-reported study by four of the largest tech firms in the United States found that Black employees make up only 1% of tech workers. Unsurprisingly, the statistics in Massachusetts also paint a grim picture. According to the Mass Technology Leadership Council’s 2016 State of the Technology Economy report, only 3% of employees in computer and mathematical-based occupations are Black, while 5% are Hispanic. The numbers are clear. This job and economic growth is not reaching everyone.

To bridge the gulf between skill and opportunity, The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts launched MSIMBO. Swahili for “code,” this computer programming class focuses on the diversity gap in the tech industry, working to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of Boston’s tech boom reaches all of the city’s neighborhoods. Offered to adults 18 years and older who are trying to overcome significant challenges to employment and who are interested in IT-related work, the program provides free job training and placement services.

MSIMBO has the potential to build a more diverse labor pool and fill thousands of job openings that require coding. The tech industry and the greater economy will benefit from the diverse backgrounds, talents and  perspectives of these future employees.

There will be no turning back of the clock. The Boston Consulting Group argues that the internet economy will outpace just about every economic sector over the next five years.  Boston businesses must take proactive steps to increase diversity in tech through educational programs like MSIMBO and fair hiring practices.  Supporting this initiative promotes economic opportunity, which benefits us all socially and economically by stimulating growth and creating a prosperous, sustainable economy.