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EQuity Begins with EQ – Part I: Discoveries

Under-employed for almost 2 years, I rose from the ashes of the Great Recession with an opportunity to enter career education and workforce development for California community colleges. I had no experience in the system, yet the two people making the decision to hire me as a contractor saw my skills as transferable and I became part of a team leading a regional National Science Foundation ICT career education center[1] hosted at City College of San Francisco. It was a personal and career reinvention, and I was ecstatic to have the lead on our diversity goals. The first assignment, of course, was defining the problem.

As it turned out, researching the barriers to entry and retention for women and people of color in ICT education and tech work environments was a discouraging experience. At first.

It was 2012. We established a small working group of K14 educators, workforce development professionals, and industry consultants to identify opportunities to improve under-represented student success on tech career education pathways. We thought if we can identify the reasons blacks, latinx, and women gave up on tech, we can knock them down, one at a time. The project was secondary research, where we analyzed existing studies and data on the lack of diversity in STEM education and the tech industry. We produced our report and then the project stalled. The systemic nature of the problem was too overwhelming to decide where to begin – a least within the scope of the grant funding our work. But the feeling of overwhelm stayed with me after the project was dropped. We labeled it a systemic problem. We hadn’t yet begun to call it out as what it was – institutional, systemic racism.

[1] Mid-Pacific ICT Center (MPICT)

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