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Diversity Digest: December 20

At WTIA, we believe diverse representation is crucial to moving the tech industry forward. This roundup of local and national stories will give you an idea of which way the needle is moving.

How Google Is Ensuring Black Women and Minority Business Owners Have a Seat at the Tech Table

Forbes | Ronesha Byng | December 17, 2018

Getting online is easy, what comes next requires investment and strategy that many bootstrapped entrepreneurs of color don’t have easy access to. Google is hoping to change that with their Google Digital Coaches program.

Tackling topics from machine learning, to funding options, to utilizing tools like Google analytics to strategically leverage data and insights to scale, the program currently serves 15,000-plus U.S.-based diverse small businesses with eight coaches in markets including Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, DC, Detroit, LA, Miami, and New York City.

Why does it matter? Their team’s research found that a potential customer is 38 percent more likely to engage with a business with a web presence. According to a survey commissioned by Google, although women and minorities represent 70 percent of all U.S. small business owners, 65 percent of diverse small businesses feel it is ‘too complicated to do/don’t know how to do’ online advertising and marketing.”

Why Your AI Might Be Racist

The Washington Post | Jerry Kaplan | December 17, 2018

“Search results, like so many other kinds of algorithms that rely on external sources of information, naturally expose whatever leanings or affinities that data reflects. This effect — called ‘algorithmic bias’— is fast becoming a common feature of our digital world, and in far more insidious ways than simple search results…Google has no a priori desire to pander to baser instincts. But its search results, like it or not, reflect the actual behavior of its audience. And if that’s what folks like me click on most frequently, that’s what Google assumes I want to see. While I might take offense at being lumped in with people whose values I deplore, it’s hard to argue that Google is at fault. Yet it’s clear that such racially tinged results are demeaning to all parties involved.

Algorithmic bias can even influence whether you are sent to jail. A 2016 study by ProPublica discovered that software designed to predict the likelihood an arrestee will re-offend incorrectly flagged black defendants twice as frequently as white defendants in a decision-support system widely used by judges. You might expect such predictive systems to be wholly impartial and therefore to be blind to skin color. But surprisingly, the program can’t give black and white defendants who are otherwise identical the same risk score, and at the same time match the actual recidivism rates for these two groups. This is because blacks are re-arrested at higher rates than whites (52 percent vs. 39 percent in this study), at least in part because of racial profiling, inequities in enforcement, and harsher treatment of blacks within the justice system.”

67% of Women in Tech Feel Underestimated at Work, Report Says

TechRepublic | Macy Bayern | December 14, 2018

“The report surveyed 200 women in tech job positions across the US to assess the current state of gender bias in the tech sphere. The majority of respondents (67%) listed feeling underestimated or not taken seriously by their peers at work as the biggest challenge they face in their jobs.

Some 65% of women in tech reported receiving over-explained responses to questions, making that the second largest challenge, and 61% cited getting oversimplified answers to technical questions, according to the report.

The stereotype that women and tech don’t go together is both outdated and incorrect: 31% of women in the tech industry said they entered the field by following their passion for computers and technology, the report found.”

Tech apprenticeship program Apprenti graduates its 1st class, sending workers to Microsoft, Amazon and others

GeekWire | Denise Crosby | November 20, 2018

“The first graduating class has 48 students, serving as a ‘beta test,’ according to Apprenti Executive Director Jennifer Carlson, for the 350 other students in the program now. Started in Seattle two years ago, Apprenti is now in 11 states.

‘This is like the first stepping off point for the program,’ Carlson said. ‘These are the pioneers, if you will, the folks who have kind of led the charge in making this a viable system for everybody else who comes after.’

Apprenti matches qualified applicants with tech companies and provides them free instruction through coding boot camps and other training programs. The program chooses new locations based on demand from employers looking to get involved.”

‘Underestimated’: How Venture Capitalist Arlan Hamilton Is Turning Inequality into Opportunity

GeekWire | Todd Bishop | December 19, 2018

“Arlan Hamilton looks at the number of startup investments going to companies run by women, people of color and LGBT entrepreneurs, and doesn’t just see disparity, or inequity. She sees financial opportunity. These startup leaders aren’t simply underrepresented. They’re underestimated. And she is betting on that fact by investing tens of millions of dollars in people and companies that others have overlooked.

‘I really do think that the majority of us are underestimated. That’s just a cool numbers game. That’s just a cool strategy. You don’t even have to think about this in terms of heartstrings, or doing the right thing,’ she says. ‘To me, it really was a numbers game. It really was a logical conclusion.’

Hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm that has invested nearly $5 million in 100 companies led by these underrepresented founders.”

Microsoft Awards $4M to Two Companies in Female Founders Competition

CNET | Abrar Al-Heeti | December 11, 2018

Microsoft’s venture fund announced the two winners of its Female Founders Competition on Tuesday, each of which will be awarded $2 million in funding.

The fund, M12, launched the Female Founders Competition in July in partnership with EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group. The competition seeks to bridge the funding gap in venture capital and dispel the misconception that few women are building enterprise tech companies.

The winning companies are Mental Canvas, a software company that combines conventional 2D sketching with 3D capabilities, and Acerta, a company whose AI platform works to ensure the quality and reliability of vehicle systems.”

Microsoft Pledges $10M to Code.Org to Expand Computer Education

CNET | Erin Carson | December 3, 2018

“Microsoft has committed $10 million by 2020 to, a nonprofit that works to spread computer science education in K-12 schools across the US…On Monday, Microsoft also released a survey done in partnership with market researcher YouGov, which gathered data from 540 K-12 teachers in the US.

The survey found that 88 percent of teachers say computer science is critical to their students’ future success in the workforce. However, 60 percent said computer science isn’t part of their school’s curriculum. What’s more, 30 percent of teachers see themselves as under-qualified to prepare their students for a ‘digital future,’ and 20 percent described themselves as overwhelmed by the idea of preparing kids for that future.

If most schools don’t offer computer science, Partovi said, kids won’t have a chance to find out if they’re passionate about. That’s particularly worrisome given that schools in poorer areas are already less likely to offer computer science.”


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