On May 8 of this year, the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) held its annual FullConTech, a diversity-themed conference where 250 leaders from tech, education, nonprofit, and government organizations gathered to brainstorm ways to improve workplaces in and around Seattle.
Out of that meeting came what WTIA calls its yearly “playbook,” which highlights the creative ideas generated during the recent FullConTech and offers 15 different “plays” that people can sign up to do, either within their own workplaces or in their communities.
“I think the great thing about the playbook is that it shows that there are all these little actions that we can actually take now,” said Julie Pham, WTIA’s vice president of community engagement and marketing. “It’s really up to you as a participant to go forward and to take action.”
The plays in this year’s playbook include:
- Create cross-sector partnerships between government, community, and private organizations to reach out to underrepresented communities and tell them about technology opportunities
- Organize an industry ambassadors program to connect with underrepresented communities to tell them about technology opportunities
- Develop a system for rating companies on their workplace diversity and culture
- Create a shared diversity language for the tech industry
- Help organize more recruiting events outside of Seattle
- Organize a program that gets tech company employees to teach community college classes
- Create a steering committee to help a community college explore ideas for new programs
- Do outreach to parents to educate them on technology opportunities
- Help people overcome perceived challenges with math through creative activities and projects
- Organize a career panel that shows tech industry diversity to school children
- Help train K-12 teachers to teach STEM
- Create an internship program that brings together a variety of potential employers and interns to meet each other and find the right match
- Organize tech talks from experts for students in grades 9-12 (not how to code but an overview of the technology industry — what it is, recent innovations, career opportunities)
- Provide next stage of life coaching for high school and college students
- Develop one- and two-day programs for disadvantaged youth to learn new skills in tech
Individuals are encouraged to get involved with designing, executing, and implementing one or more of the plays. WTIA will then introduce interested parties with others who want to collaborate.
“With three percent unemployment (in Seattle), it’s really important for employers to build a great workplace so they can actually retain people, because it’s so costly to replace them,” Pham said.
Aside from improving individual workplaces, another aim of the playbook is to encourage the sharing of ideas between different industries. For example, nonprofit organizations might have programs in place regarding workplace diversity that could be useful to companies in other sectors. “The bigger goal is, how do we do this together?” Pham said.
While Pham knows not all of the plays will get done, she’s hopeful that some meaningful change will come as a result of the playbook. “We know that some people are going to drop off and others are going to go the whole way and create something that they feel proud of,” she said.