As is Skylarq tradition, our team spent last week hopping around the city for Denver StartUp Week. From RiNo to LoDo to the Golden Triangle, we were able to join in on discussions that covered everything from the blooming nature of Denver neighborhoods to how to create a brand identity. One topic that commanded a presence throughout the week was diversity. I had the opportunity to listen in on a few inspiring, influential leaders in Denver’s tech scene. They shared their opinions on the diversity challenges the tech community faces and what we can do to solve them.

What does it mean to be diverse in Tech?

Before I dive into how we in the Tech industry can revolutionize change, let’s cover the basics. The topic of diversity in the industry applies not only to introducing women into the workforce, but also bringing in people of different races and ages. Having a diverse workforce isn’t just about equality. It’s about gaining a variety of perspectives for more effective problem solving. According to a National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) 2015 study, women hold 25% of all computing jobs. Even more alarming African Americans and Hispanics make up only 4-5% of the tech workforce. These statistics not only show us the gap in our industry, but they beg the question: How do we solve this problem?

Take a look into your hiring process.

Where and how we recruit for companies is the initial problem. In one of the events I attended, A Bigger Tent: Women in Colorado’s Tech Scene, Terry Morreale, CTO of NCWIT, spoke about how companies can have an unconscious bias when it comes to writing job listings and conducting interviews. In that same session, Heather Terenzio, CEO of Techtonic Group, spoke about her apprenticeship program. They recruit young individuals from local communities, who have the passion and drive it takes to become a developer (despite their lack of a degree or experience). In the apprenticeship they are able to work on real projects with real clients. At the end of the project, many companies will offer to hire the interns who now had practical experience not only in Tech, but also with that specific company and their unique set of issues and goals. I thought it was an extremely innovative way to not only introduce diversity into your own workplace but others as well.

Speak up!

One of the biggest hurdles we need to jump is just starting the conversation. It’s important that all of us, no matter our race, gender, or age, speak about these issues and how we can solve them. One of my favorite sessions, Periods, Airbags, and Artificial Hearts, featured a very diverse panel that sparked this conversation. They spoke about how we sometimes feel more comfortable addressing the gender diversity but fall silent when it comes to race. It’s time to put those fears to rest and engage! By creating a dialogue, we are putting this issue out in the open and encouraging everyone to solve it. Speak up! Echo their point. said Jim Ray, Development Director at CaptainU at the discussion. Eliminating the taboo of the conversation is a big part of the battle. Helping others be heard is a vital step towards bringing change.

Diversity can only happen when everyone is involved. It’s not something that can be introduced by a few in the room, it’s about getting the team together and instilling this change to better your company and its culture. By having the conversation, amplifying the diverse opinion, and keeping a mindful eye on our unconscious bias, we can revolutionize the tech scene and introduce the variety that is lacking.