The conversation at IBJ’s Technology Power Breakfast on Thursday focused largely on social justice and diversity issues and what role the local tech community can take in addressing some of these complex challenges.
The tech industry as a whole has not been known for diversity in hiring, and panelists didn’t hesitate to address the issue and offer solutions. The virtual event was streamed live and can be viewed here in its entirety.
Afterwards, IBJ technology reporter Anthony Schoettle sat down with panelist Dewand Neely, the chief operating officer of Fishers-based Eleven Fifty Academy, to discuss how technology companies can contribute to social justice concerns and provide more opportunities for people of color.
There’s lots of money flowing through the tech sector, Neely said. He suggested companies could be more intentional about how they’re spreading the wealth.
“I looked yesterday at the industry report for [information technology] globally and it was approaching $5.2 trillion for 2020, so there’s a lot of money that flows through the technology sector and technology companies,” Neely said. “I think tech companies as part of their diversity and inclusion planning, that should flow down to their sourcing—their contractors and vendors upstream and downstream. Diversity and inclusion should play a big role in that as well.”
Neely added that tech companies also have to be “more intentional about where they set a footprint and make sure dollars are flowing into that community as well. Tech companies have to be strategic and push business to minority and black-owned businesses. That helps raise all ships. We know when those dollars are there, those communities can be more sustainable.”
Those initiatives can help broaden educational opportunities, improve health care options and lower crime in the communities where those investments are made, Neely said.
Neely said Eleven Fifty is partnering with local churches, foundations, government institutions and schools such as Martin University and Vincennes University to broaden opportunities for a wide range of people—including minorities.
“We realize we can’t do any of this by ourselves,” Neely said. “We actively seek partnerships … to [ask], ‘What are folks talking about and dealing with? Here’s what we can do, help us get the message out.’”
The panel also included Sherry Aaholm, chief information officer for Cummins Inc.; Ariel Crawley, who leads community engagement for Indy Women in Tech; Vertex Intelligence CEO Tyler Foxworthy; TechPoint CEO Mike Langellier; and Scale Computing CEO Jeff Ready.