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Tech, community leaders discuss workforce diversity

Last week, Northeastern University-Seattle convened top officials from technology companies in the Northwest and community leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson to discuss ways to increase workforce opportunity and income equality for minorities and women in these sectors.

The Dec. 3 meeting included executives from Amazon, Google, Impinj, and Moz, as well as leaders from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition—of which Jackson is founder and president—and African-American leaders in the Seattle area. At the meeting, the company executives committed to working together to make Pacific Northwest tech firms the national leaders in workforce diversity throughout the corporate ladder. These positions include software engineers, administrative leaders and CEOs, and board members. They also include the many tech industry jobs—lawyers, accountants, and security personnel, among others—that don’t require STEM credentials.

Tayloe Washburn, dean and CEO of Northeastern University-Seattle, said he will work closely these companies and the Washington Technology Industry Association in coming months to design a series of implementation strategies to ensure these commitments are met.

The meeting dovetailed with the momentum building nationally to increase opportunities for minorities and women in the tech industry. Top technology companies have released workforce data in recent months that show a lack of diversity within these firms. The result of this data—which show that males overwhelmingly outnumber females in tech jobs, and that workforces are largely white and Asian—have these companies looking to close the gap.

This dialogue on workplace diversity continued the following day, Dec. 4, at Northeastern-Seattle, where Northwest leaders in government, business, and labor engaged in a panel discussion moderated by Joanne Goldstein, associate vice president for workforce development and employer engagement in the College of Professional Studies. Around 100 people attended the panel discussion, in which participants discussed strategies to provide more job opportunities, higher wages, better health, and greater opportunity for low-income citizens and minorities in the Seattle area.

Northeastern University-Seattle, which launched in 2013, is located in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood, an innovative hub of global health, life sciences, and technology companies and institutions. The graduate campus offers a range of dynamic graduate degree programs in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, health informatics, computer science, bioinformatics, and engineering, all of which align with the needs of the Puget Sound region. Degree programs are taught based on a hybrid delivery model that integrates both online and classroom learning.