Report: We need more early-career minority tech policy leaders - Technical.ly DC

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Feb. 15, 2021 1:45 pm

Report: We need more early-career minority tech policy leaders

The new report published by D.C.-based Public Knowledge shares research and ideas on how to diversify the pool of people working in tech policy.
Diverse teams.

Diverse teams.

(Photo by Pixabay user rawpixel, used under a Creative Commons license)

As we increasingly rely on technology in our daily lives, it’s important that there’s a diverse group of people at the table when discussing policy that influences that technology’s development and use — including topics such as racial equity in broadband access, or algorithmic bias.

A new report finds that tech policy nonprofits need to recruit more minority leaders for early tech policy careers.

The report was published by Public Knowledge, a D.C.-based advocacy group that consumer-minded technology policy. “Diversity in Early-Career Tech Policy Roles: Challenges and Opportunities” shares research and ideas on how to diversify the pool of people working in tech policy.

One key finding that the report brought to light is that there’s not that much data on early career hiring in tech policy nonprofits: Of the 31 groups in the D.C. area that Public Knowledge reached out to to survey, only eight responded, while only three reported that they consistently collected demographic data in the past three years.

Read the report

Tsion Tesfaye, communications justice fellow at Public Knowledge and a diversity and technology equity advocate, led research on the report and published these findings.

“As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, it is especially important that people of color participate in policy discussions and are empowered to raise questions about who benefits and who is harmed by policy decisions,” Tesfaye said in the report’s conclusion. “Early-career opportunities offer people of color a pathway to building careers in tech policy, and we hope this report illuminates some of the barriers to entry.”

Here are some of Tesfaye’s findings discussed in the report that could be causing a lack of diverse tech policy leaders:

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  • The content of job descriptions can influence the applicant pool, decreasing or increasing the pool of diverse applicants.
  • Although most opportunities, including internships, are paid, the rate of pay is low, creating a barrier to entry for individuals from less affluent backgrounds.
  • Many tech policy groups offer early-career on-ramps, such as internships and fellowships, but they could add externships to increase opportunities.
  • Organizations faced funding and other challenges in hiring early-career positions.

The research that Tesfaye gathered in this report and the lack of minority tech policy leaders has prompted Public Knowledge to do some recruiting reevaluation itself. The nonprofit is hoping to gather more demographic data from tech policy nonprofits, as well as further research on organizational cultures.

“Many people of color do not believe it is sufficient to have well-meaning people advocate for policies they believe are equitable,” Tesfaye said in a statement. “People of color must also be in the room where organizations are making policy decisions.”

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