Analyzing Edtech’s Diversity Problem
It’s well-established that there’s a lack of diversity in the technology sector, regarding both gender and race. In fact, about 83% of tech executives are white males.
Although edtech struggles with this problem as well, the good news is that it’s to a lesser extent. According to Forbes, the presence of female founders in edtech is increasing. Edtech incubators and competitions are also attracting higher numbers of women.
It’s further estimated that about 40 to 50 percent of all edtech startups have at least one person of color as a cofounder.
But why does tech have a diversity problem in the first place, and what makes edtech any different? Let’s take a look.
Tech’s Diversity Problem
Often, tech companies blame the “pipeline” for their lack of diversity. They argue that they don’t receive many diverse applicants in the first place, or that few underrepresented applicants have the exact qualifications they’re looking for.
It’s possible, these companies argue, that women and people of color aren’t pursing degrees or jobs in technology at the same rate as white men.
But evidence suggests that the pipeline isn’t the only problem. For instance, black people and Latinos earn about 18 percent of computer science degrees, but they hold only 5 percent of tech jobs.
And there are also non-technical roles involved in any tech company, including PR, marketing, lawyers, etc. Yet companies overwhelmingly hire white employees. For instance, 59 percent of Google’s employees and 69% of Adobe’s workforce are white.
The Leaky Pipeline
Kimberly Bryant, founder of the nonprofit Black Girls Code, claims that the issue isn’t as simple as getting underrepresented groups to take the technology path.
She says we really need to examine “how we lose diverse candidates as they move along this journey.” Calling it “the leaky pipeline,” Bryant explains that young women who are initially interested in tech often lose interest. Bryant argues that the solution may lie with pinpointing and addressing the reason underrepresented groups often veer away from careers in tech.
Some believe that tech culture, sometimes referred to as “brogrammer” culture, is a major barrier to women and people of color entering and sticking with careers in technology. For women, this problem may be exacerbated by unfriendly maternity policies.
People of color have similarly reported discrimination and isolation working for tech companies, and they’re generally paid and promoted less than their white counterparts.
What Makes Edtech Different?
There’s no clear explanation for why edtech is more diverse than technology in general. Many believe it’s because education is a traditionally feminized field. The majority of teachers are women, and large numbers of teachers are minorities as well.
For this reason, edtech may attract more underrepresented candidates than tech in general.
However, both tech and edtech have a long way to go when it comes to diversifying. Although there are more women and people of color in edtech, the industry is still predominantly run by white men.
It’s good news that women and people of color are better represented in edtech, but the work isn’t done yet.
While women and people of color should be encouraged to pursue degrees in technology, they must also be motivated enough to stick with it. This means making technology—and edtech specifically—a more welcoming and inclusive culture.