By Larry Williams, president and CEO, Technology Association of Georgia
Thanks to everyone who sponsored and participated in Converge 2021 on Nov. 1. We had a lively and thoughtful conversation about social justice, equity, and inclusion along with workforce development. These topics are all related and they’re of great importance to TAG and our membership. Below are four takeaways of this year’s successful conference.
- Bold is better: Ashley Black, Director, Equity, Delta Air Lines, talked about Delta’s role as a founding member of OneTen. This is an exciting program to create one million family-sustaining careers for Black talent in America over 10 years. With support of innovative companies like Delta, the largest employer in Georgia, and other growing businesses, I know we can achieve that goal. At Converge, we were proud to recognize strong leaders who are taking bold action to foster diversity throughout the technology ecosystem. They include:
- Chloe Barzey of Accenture, winner of the DE&I Impact Leader Award;
- Collen Reedy of Accenture, winner of the DE&I Emerging Tech Leader of the Year Award;
- Pyramid Consulting for winning the 2021 Inclusive Technology Leadership Award.
- Try new approaches in education and workforce training. In my conversation with Mark Butler, Georgia’s Commissioner of Labor, we talked about the shortage of workers to fill technology jobs. Other panelists discussed the need for more talent in cybersecurity. The good news is leaders recognize these gaps, and efforts are underway to fill them. One example is GeorgiaBest, a high school certificate program created by Mark Butler’s office. Another example is Delta Air Lines, which is shifting to a “skills-first” hiring approach. The company is removing the four-year degree requirement from more than 70% of its jobs. We need more of this kind of innovation to build a successful workforce for tomorrow.
- Think broadly about diversity. In one of our breakout sessions, Dr. Julian Maha, Founder and CEO of KultureCity, discussed the challenges people with disabilities confront in the workplace. This includes people with invisible disabilities like those on the autism spectrum who may have difficulty interviewing for jobs and communicating with co-workers. Businesses would benefit from inclusive approaches to recruiting talent with visible and invisible disabilities and by providing accommodations in the workplace.
- We have to do better. According to PwC, less than half of human resource leaders are focused on inclusive leadership. That’s not good enough. Too many communities are disconnected from the opportunities of the innovation economy without broadband, and the talent gap is still way too wide. When it comes to creating a more inclusive technology ecosystem, we cannot let up. Progress will take persistence and patience.
That’s why we’re going to continue our focus on advancing social justice, equity, and inclusion. We’ll be sure to track progress going into Converge 2022.