Northeast Ohio tech companies seek to embrace inclusivity in era of fierce global competition | #education | #technology | #training

Cleveland software creator OnShift has a slightly different take on fostering corporate diversity, even if its strategy derives from similar principles of meeting employees where they live. The company’s committee for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, or DIBs, focuses on education and recruiting, at the same time encouraging open conversations around potentially divisive topics.

“We want to make this work accepted and celebrated,” said Kristen Weber, vice president of people and culture at OnShift. “Belonging means having a safe place to share your experiences. That’s where these programs make a difference.”

Anti-racism protests that swept the U.S. in 2020 sparked companies including OnShift to crystalize their approach to workplace equity, Weber said. Eliminating disparities for the underserved — whether by gender, race, ethnicity, family income or geography — requires developing those communities’ foundational knowledge.

Computer science fields are infamously plagued by stark underrepresentation. Per a report from the nonprofit, students from marginalized racial and ethnic groups — along with high percentages of economically disadvantaged learners — are less likely to have access to computer science courses than their peers. Issues of diversity naturally extend to university programs and, eventually, the software workplace itself, the report stated.

In Ohio, only 232 of 3,540 advanced computer science exams were taken by Black high school students, with 166 Hispanic students taking the same exam, per data. In response, OnShift is reaching younger populations through external initiatives like Code Path, where company engineers voluntarily educate minority college students in no-cost coding courses.

“The market does not support a diverse workforce, so we wanted to get involved at the high school and college level,” said Weber. “Folks who are underrepresented in these classes can now see a future in a tech career.”

Hyland is doing its part to bridge the digital divide, noted corporate responsibility director Jackman. The content services provider currently partners with computer science nonprofit TECH CORPS on technology training for elementary school learners on up.

Among these efforts is STEM programming at Cleveland State University’s Fenn Academy and professional computer science training for students attending St. Martin de Porres High School in Cleveland.

Jackman said, “We’ve developed our own technical outreach programs to try and fill that gap. If underrepresented communities at the earliest of ages are lacking access to education, how will they pursue their field of study and advance their career?”

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