NPR logo 3 Emerging Themes From #RaceOnTech

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3 Emerging Themes From #RaceOnTech

We know that women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in the STEM fields — that's science, technology, engineering and math. Now dip into #RaceOnTech to find out why. Since Monday, entrepreneurs, scientists, computer scientists and coders from Silicon Valley to Greenbelt, Md., have been sharing their thoughts one tweet at a time. Three central themes/sentiments are emerging: identity, role models and the wealth gap.

Identity

It's much harder for people of color to fit in. The tech and STEM sectors are dominated by white men and are not welcoming. Women and people of color like assistant professor of physics Kerstin Perez note that they have to work much harder to keep focused and not give up. "Science is challenging," Perez tweets. "If you don't see yourself reflected in senior roles, self-doubt can be crippling." Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, says she's working to change the tech culture in Silicon Valley. "We need to engage with companies engaging in unconscious bias, from CEO level to folks just entering the workforce," she says. "Unconscious bias is more subtle (and inadvertent) discrimination."

Role Models

Young people of color need mentors, role models and aha moments. They need people who look like them to show them that tech and STEM can be fun and rewarding. We know that more black and Latino teens say they're online "almost constantly," according to a Pew Research Center study. Participants around #RaceOnTech said young people of color need to see how the tech and STEM fields can fit into their lives, how they can make a difference in their communities and in general get excited about it. They need to be encouraged to be curious about the world and to explore. They need to know that it's OK to fail. As long as kids keep learning and engaging with role models that look like them, they'll understand that technology is their ticket to good jobs and they'll be more motivated to pursue the field.

The Wealth Gap

A question on the mind of some around #RaceOnTech is how to build a startup when you don't have "the privilege of wealth and education," as Kortney Ryan Ziegler tweeted. Entrepreneur Andrew Chang tweeted back that "networking [with] like-minded startup founders and co-working spaces" is critical. Others suggested teaming up with others who can help you with your goals, and having an entrepreneurial mindset. Still, physicist Kerstin Perez said, you can't ignore "the very real barriers faced by those with minimal access to ed, wealth, help."

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What's clear is that there is something in these conversations for a variety of people, whether you're a Silicon Valley executive or a new coder trying to find your way in tech. Follow #RaceOnTech today and tomorrow on Twitter and share your story. You can check out highlights from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Correction July 15, 2015

An earlier version of this post failed to attribute the quote about the privilege of wealth and education. It was tweeted by Kortney Ryan Ziegler.

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