It’s compelling to imagine what technology will look like decades from now. But one industry group is trying to draw more attention to what the people making tomorrow’s technology will look like.
At the current rate of hiring, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council estimates it will take generations for minorities and women to be broadly represented in the tech work force.
For example, 5.3 percent of white males currently work in computer and math occupation, while roughly 2 percent each of women, African-Americans, and Latinos are in those fields. Given current trends, the council estimated it will take until 2085 before African-Americans are represented at the same level as white men are today, and 2045 for Latinos. Women, too, will have to wait more than a half century, until 2070, before their numbers catch up to where white men are now.
“These are conservative numbers at best,” said Tom Hopcroft, chief executive of the leadership council. “It could be a lot longer.”
For years the tech industry has cited a shortage of talent as its most pressing challenge. Yet despite widespread debate about the lack of diversity, and numerous initiatives in schools and special programs to introduce more women and minorities to technology careers, progress has been painfully slow: Only 29 percent of Massachusetts tech workers are nonwhite, and 24 percent are women, according to the council report.
“Our intent was to frame this in a way to create more urgency behind it,” Hopcroft said.
The report, prepared for the council by the UMass Donahue Institute, calls broadly to “make inclusion a priority,” by having policy makers and employers set specific goals for diversity, share successful strategies, and hold themselves accountable.
“We have the people, and we must educate and train them,” the report said. It calls for better education in technology fields, improved commuting options to make it easier for different workers to reach places of employment, and more housing that prospective tech workers can afford.
While the council said the United States needs to ease restrictions on immigration — not toughen them as the Trump administration wants — to improve hiring, its emphasis is on making better use of the population already here.
There are a host of efforts underway to improve diversity hiring broadly and within specific demographics.
Just in the past several months, the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts has begun a coding boot camp for adults, a coalition of industry, academic, and charitable groups launched a program to recruit black and Latino computer science and engineering students into tech internships, and Flybridge Capital Partners launched a fund that invests only in startups led by women.
Hopcroft said the key to solving the problem will be more widespread action. He hopes the report will be a catalyst to finally do that.
“It’s important to the people, it’s important to the state, it’s important to the industry,” he said. “But we [can’t] just go on with the status quo.”