Stop combining privilege with potential – TechCrunch

Increasing number of low-income students attending university: According to a 2016 report from Pew Research Center, the total proportion of university students from low-income families increased from 12% in 1996 to 20% in 2016. However, only 11% students in the lowest income quintile complete their degrees within six years, compared with 58% for those in the top quartile.

This difference will give you pause. Why do so many low-income students go to college but fail to complete their degrees, and thus, fail to reach their full potential in the workforce? One short answer covers the problem: a lack of unique and targeted support and resources. And, particularly in the tech sector, this lack of support stems from a problematic ecosystem that often creates privilege and well-being for its students and prospective employees.

These assumptions (subconsciously or not) perpetuate a technology industry that lacks access to significant and effective talent by falsely and consistently excluding low-income students from educational and career opportunities. business is opening.

It is clear that the technology education system for transitioning into a career leaves low-income students unsatisfactory before completing their degrees and entering one of the highest paying sectors in our economy. we –– but we don’t talk about it. Socioeconomic status should be part of the “diversity” conversation –– it is underreported and vindicated.

What does it mean to combine privilege with potential?

Like in many industries, tech hiring (from internships to full-time jobs) goes well before graduation. Low-income students with high potential often don’t fit the “ideal candidate” stereotype sought by this hiring structure, which overvalues ​​and rewards traits that are often a good sign. more about privilege than talent or potential. How did that happen, and how can we prevent it?

If you asked hiring managers what skills might be needed to succeed in the tech industry, they might say they’re looking for new hires:

  • Has excellent problem solving skills.
  • Demonstrated time management skills.
  • Are hardworking people.
  • Be resilient and willing to persevere through difficult problems.
  • Capable of adapting.

These skills can come from a variety of experiences –– for example, a student working a full-time or part-time job while pursuing a technical degree acquires a strong work ethic, competencies time management and resilience. A first-generation student navigating the college experience on her own without family knowledge or social media can gain impressive problem-solving skills. While these are subjective, they are incredibly valuable skills for success in the tech industry.

In hiring practice, however, these proven skills are rarely part of the equation and are disproportionately overshadowed by things like:

  • An exceptional high school experience (including test preparation, high-quality counseling, access to higher-level math courses) opens the door to attending a prestigious college/university, along with many accompanying opportunities and support.
  • Financial resources and time (i.e. not having to work to support yourself or being able to work fewer hours) to participate in campus clubs and networks, attend hackathons, and/ or attend conferences or networking events on weekends and evenings.
  • Cash upfront and knowledge needed to go to an in-person job interview or transfer internship.
  • Test scores, GPA, and other quantitative measures are heavily influenced by perks, such as access to expensive exam prep courses, rigorous math prep before college, and most of all. is the freedom to focus only on learning for people who don’t have to work to support themselves and their families.
  • Awards and recognition are based on many of the above factors, as well as social capital.

Unlike the first set, these criteria are considered indications of “potential”. However, reaching these markers requires a certain degree of privilege and affluence not found in most students. All of these experiences take time and energy away from a person’s participation in their family, in the work that pays for their education, and for other important responsibilities outside of the classroom. Many of these experiences require independent funds; most of these experiences favor extra-curricular networks, prior knowledge, and preparatory privileges.

This is a huge missed opportunity with dire consequences. Technology industry need to separate event attendance, awards, and where one went to school from one’s actual ability to succeed in the industry. They are not one and the same, and if we continue to privileged ourselves with potential, we will not reach this community of high potential students, leaving us with a constant shortage of talent and the public sector. less diverse technology.

So what now?

How the technology course can be adapted to ensure that low-income students are uniquely supported throughout their journey total technology journey?

Level the playing field for low-income rookies

More than half of college students report insecurity about housing. To put it bluntly: Taking your computer science test is hard when you can’t pay the rent, and completing the assignment is nearly impossible if you don’t have a fast internet connection.

To address these barriers (both new and established), we must understand them and then invest the resources to break them down.

First, support and invest in organizations that work to fill these gaps for low-income students. Second, level the playing field for all new hires –– if you are a decision maker or HR representative at a tech company, make sure you are offering all internships new births and recruits with on-site support for relocation and admission.

Don’t assume students have credit or family funding to prepay these costs and wait weeks for reimbursement. This allows candidates to be their best selves.

Invest in college students to invest in diversity

The tech sector tends to invest in the early stages of the technology road map –– focused companies 66% of their charitable endowments go to K – 12 programs, compared to 3% for college level programs.

K-12 investments are important but need to be followed at a higher educational level to deliver the talent we need. We have to make sure students are completing their degrees (and supporting them throughout their journey) –– this will deliver immediate returns in the form of ready tech talent and multi-intelligence. more forms contribute to the technological innovations that elevate us all.

What does this mean in practice? Here’s an example: If you hire a new employee who is still in their senior year, include their spring semester. Invest in your future employees; giving them space to focus on their senior, senior classes will help them better prepare for the job, instead of letting them worry about paying tuition, rent and other expenses in the final months equally important.

The current population of graduates with degrees in informatics and the entire technology sector, does not reflect our diverse society –– not only in terms of race and gender, but also in economic status society. And that’s because the tech industry continue to combine privilege with potential.

The result is a homogenous technology sector that produces important technologies that do not serve everyone equally. Gone are the days when support and investment were unique to low-income students in the entire technology system.

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