Connected & Ready

Building the pipeline of future female engineers, with Dr. Tarika Barrett

Episode Summary

Girls Who Code is on a mission to close the gender gap in the technology workforce and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. In this episode of Connected & Ready, host Gemma Milne talks with Tarika Barrett, Ph.D., CEO of Girls Who Code, about the origin story of the technology gender gap, the societal and business benefits of bringing more women into technology and leadership roles, and some ways that businesses can examine their own cultures and hiring practices to become more equitable and inclusive. Dynamics 365 is helping businesses of all sizes unify their data and create a digital-first culture. With next generation ERP and CRM business applications, employees at every level can reason over data, predict trends, and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo of Dynamics 365 today: https://aka.ms/AA8vns5 Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at connectedandready@microsoft.com. We would love to hear from you.

Episode Notes

Gemma Milne talks with Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code, about their initiatives to close the technology gender gap, including certain data-driven responses and research, the importance of role models, global differences related to this issue, and concrete examples of the positive impact programs like these can have on individuals, companies willing to transform their culture, and society at large.

About Tarika Barrett:

Dr. Tarika Barrett is the CEO of Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology, and which has served more than 450,000 students to date. Tarika started her career as an educator and has spent two decades building educational pathways for young people at organizations like iMentor, the New York City Department of Education, New Visions for Public Schools, and New York University’s Center for Research on Teaching and Learning. A graduate of Brooklyn College, Tarika has an M.A. in Deaf Education from Columbia Teachers College and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from New York University. Tarika serves on the board of McGraw Hill and is the recipient of the New York University’s Steinhardt School Dorothy Height Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

Topics of discussion

 

Learn more:

https://girlswhocode.com/

 

Sponsor link

Dynamics 365 delivers next generation ERP and CRM business applications, helping employees at every level reason over data, predict trends, and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo of Dynamics 365 today:

https://aka.ms/AA8vns5

 

Contact us

Email: connectedandready@microsoft.com

 

Follow us on social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/msftdynamics365

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/microsoft-dynamics

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJGCg4rB3QSs8y_1FquelBQ

Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author. And I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disrupted world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting to Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code, to discuss the widening technology gap for women in tech, including cultural influences, barriers faced by underrepresented groups, and what it will take to build a pipeline of future female engineers who are great coders and great leaders. We also discuss what brave and transformational leadership looks like, share insights on what companies can do to diversify their workforce, and talk about why having these conversations and taking steps towards change is so crucial for us all right now. Before we start, I want to thank all of you listeners out there. If you have a topic or a person you'd love to hear on the show, please send us an email connectedandready@microsoft.com. We're so thankful for your all. Now on with the episode. 

Gemma [00:01:15] Tarika, thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show today. Let's start with some introductions. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what drew you to your work? 

Tarika [00:01:26] Absolutely. It's a pleasure to be here with you. So I'm a Jamaican American educator, tech enthusiast, equity advocate, and the CEO of Girls Who Code. And you know my passion for this work actually started when I was a girl growing up with my mother, both in Brooklyn, New York, and Kingston, Jamaica. And to be honest, there's nothing like living in another country to shape who you are in your worldview and how I understand issues of equity, race, and class. We're all informed by this upbringing. And you know, as the proud daughter of Jamaican immigrants spending my childhood between Kingston and Brooklyn, it really instilled in me things like the power of mentorship, which my mom was really committed to, and the importance of fighting for equity and making change. And my mother was the first in our family to actually go to college and to get a graduate degree. And after going to high school in Kingston myself, I followed in her footsteps and came back to the US for college. And every day I would take this hour-long bus ride from the housing project where we lived to the campus of Brooklyn College, where I went to school with other kids who are also from working class families, kids who are the first in their families to go to college. And we're just beating the odds by being there. And it didn't hit me until much later, what, simply walking through those doors meant to so many of our families. And that was the foundation that informed my journey into the education space. And later I would come to understand that working on issues of equity and education, especially in terms of gender and race, would be my life's work. And it's a dream that also took shape across a number of experiences. I've been a community organizer, a classroom teacher. I earned my Ph.D. in teaching and learning from NYU. I've worked in education reform and actually had the good fortune of leading the team that designed and launched New York City's first ever high school focused on software engineering where issues of equity were central. And so that's a mouthful, but basically all of these experiences and milestones kind of contributed to the moment I find myself in now as the CEO of Girls Who Code. 

Gemma [00:03:25] Amazing, Tarika, what an intro, and clearly the perfect person to be coming on our show to discuss the topics that were going to be talking about in closing the technology gender gap, amongst many other things. So that intro perfectly set us up to really get to grips with where you're coming from and why this is so important personally, but also more broadly. Tell us a bit more about Girls Who Code and a little bit about its mission. And I'm also interested in some of the sort of data driven solutions that you're implementing through the organization. 

Tarika [00:03:53] That's such a great question. I'm always happy to talk about us and what we do. So we're an international nonprofit working to close the gender gap in entry level tech jobs by 2030. And at our core, we're leading a movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills they need to pursue 21st century opportunities. And since our inception in 2012, we've served over 450,000 girls and young women in the US, Canada, India, and the UK and of that, 450,000, 90,000 of them are now college age and workforce age young women. That's actually three times the number of women graduating with a CS related degree in the US. And you know for us, in terms of our work, we're not only thinking about how to get more women and underrepresented groups in the door, we're also thinking about what to do to make sure that they're included, that they actually persist and stay. We believe that if you have a seat at the table, it's not enough if your actual voice isn't being heard and we have to make sure that women who are entering the tech sector, especially these early first jobs, they're prepared as individuals, but also are they connected to a larger community that will value their voice and their contributions to the work? And for us, our vision is a world where our computer science classrooms are as diverse as our communities, a world where women in computing have a sisterhood in tech to lean on, and that that sisterhood in turn changes their community and frankly, the world. And so that's our vision and what we do at Girls Who Code. And you ask a question about being data driven. And to be honest, it's at the core of everything that we do at Girls Who Code. And I guess I'll point to something really salient when I think about how we've responded to the pandemic and how we've shown up for our community. And I think data has been at the heart of that. Historically, if we look at our summer immersion program, for example, we would serve 1,680 partner classrooms across the country in person 9 to 4 coding every day, field trips, guest speakers, all of this magic and then COVID hit. And we transform that into a two-week virtual program thinking about girls and their needs, ranging from tech, WI-FI, living circumstances. We collected data from them. We analyzed that to inform how we would support them. We also had an outreach team that had to be really reliant on the data that we had to be able to reach more girls than ever before. So instead of serving 1,600, we actually served over 5,000 girls, which in our first year and this year it will likely be over 6000. And so we continue to be nimble and thoughtful in what we do. And we're leaning on data to inform how we can get to reach and scale with our programing that far surpasses what we thought was possible. 

Gemma [00:06:42] One thing I really want to quickly add to this question around the context is about, I guess, the global differences perhaps in how this manifests. We know that around the world, in many, many cultures, in many, many societies, there is a huge imbalance between men and women that manifests in many different ways. But I'm thinking both in the sense of Girls Who Code is active in multiple different countries, as you highlighted, but also from your own experience growing up between the US and Jamaica. I can imagine there was probably a very different experience, particularly with regards to your race. 

Tarika [00:07:14] Yeah, you've nailed it just in the way that you formulated that question about what's at work when we think about a gap that leads to only 25 percent of the computing workforce being women. And the earliest reason for the gender gap in tech is that our culture has a very limited notion of what a coder looks like. And at Girls Who Code we're constantly saying that you cannot be what you cannot see. And as girls, young women, even in school and through culture, they learn all the time about men like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, the Albert Einsteins, and Neil Armstrongs. But if you ask your average girl that you want to, how much do they know about Catherine Johnson or Ada Lovelace or Grace Hopper or Jean Bartik? Phenomenal women who've contributed so much to the field of tech. In their minds, a programmer is still a boy in a hoodie alone in a basement or some archetype of a man running a company in Silicon Valley. Before girls are even 10 years old, they've already internalized these cultural touchstones and unfortunately, these internalized beliefs resonate with them throughout their entire lives, be it elementary school, middle school, high school, college and even into the workforce. And then another reason for the gap and again, this is a bit of a complex question that you're asking - I point to academic credentialing and traditional hiring practices which offer a really narrow and privileged perspective of success. And it just continues to shut out the historically marginalized students that you ask about. And we know it means that we continue to fail to bring in much needed diversity that we have to see at these tech companies. And for Girls Who Code, women from historically underrepresented groups make up more than half of our community. And we know that these are young women who are motivated, ready to learn, but don't always have the same opportunities. We know that they're working multiple jobs, carrying a full course load. They're balancing caregiving responsibilities at the same time. And they also don't necessarily have the same resources that others do. Yet they are the embodiment of bravery and resilience, qualities that are the exact same qualities companies want to see manifested in their workforce. But they're not always reflected in conventional academic credentials that tech firms overwhelmingly rely on. And it's self-defeating, like computer science is one of the fastest growing professions in the country. The growth is expected to be 11 percent between 2019 and 2029, which translates into half a million new jobs. We cannot afford to leave a single ounce of tech talent on the proverbial table. And the last thing that I'll say on this and again, I said it was complex and I've talked about a few things. Culture and images in culture credentialing and what happens in terms of barriers and gatekeeping. And then the final thing I want to talk about is the punishing work culture in tech, often rooted in systemic racism and sexism. That leaves women, especially women of color, feeling alienated when they get that first job, when they've quote unquote made it and have entered the industry. We did a study with Accenture and saw that half of women leave tech roles by the age of 35, many of them because they did not find their workplace to be hospitable to women. It could be a lack of adequate parental leave. It could be not seeing women who look like me in the senior ranks of leadership. It could be a toxic corporate culture. We also know that if we could make workplaces more welcoming spaces, we could increase the number of women working in tech by three million, if you can imagine that. And so, yes, some of the reasons for the gender gap in tech may feel abstract to some people. Something nebulous we talk about in terms of images and culture. But the solutions to this problem couldn't be more concrete. If we give women the opportunities they need to develop their skills, if we give them access to mentors who inspire them and role models to make them excited about a career in tech, if we make sure workplaces are welcoming and if we can agree that so-called locker room talk cannot be a prerequisite for women in tech, I promise you, if we can actually do these things, we'll start to see that gender gap close. 

Gemma [00:11:26] So I'm curious as to how you see these global differences and perhaps is there things that different countries can learn from others in terms of how things are manifesting or perhaps how things are dealt with, informing how we can actually make cultural change happen? Because it's not an easy thing to do. Right? It's not just a program. It's a complete shift in mindset. 

Tarika [00:11:48] Yeah, that's such an interesting question. And I certainly by no means am an expert here, but you mention my own upbringing and I can tell you that I remember going to high school in Jamaica and I went to an all girls high school, definitely a huge shaper of how I think and who I am. And we did, I think it was several, one year of cooking, one year of sewing. I can't remember all the different things that we did. Meanwhile, at the all boys schools, they did technical drawing, they did computer science. So here and I mean, listen, I'm no spring chicken, and that was some time ago, but we always have to remember the vestiges of these practices and how much of an uphill road it is sometimes to get schools and institutions that have hardwired inequity into the system to get them to rethink how they view girls and their potential and what is possible for young women. And we do have a presence in the UK, Canada, and India, and we continue to learn from these communities in terms of what they're seeing. There's certainly instances where across our afterschool clubs we see that things that are dynamic are happening almost regardless of geography. But we don't pretend to fully understand the limitations as well, because sometimes it's very local, it's very idiosyncratic to where a given club is and the support they have and what else is going on. So I guess I would say there's just a tremendous amount of learning still to be had, but it goes to code for us. It's that steady drumbeat of making sure that folks, when they think about what a person in tech looks like, that they conjure in their minds a girl and especially a girl of color, because we're still waging war against that stereotype that the first thing when you say computer scientists, if you close your eyes for too many people, they're not conjuring a little Brown or Black girl who could be doing this. And that is what we are deeply committed to changing. 

Ad [00:13:46] Dynamics 365 is helping businesses of all sizes unify their data and create a digital-first culture. With next generation ERP and CRM business applications, employees at every level can reason over data, predict trends, and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo of Dynamics 365 today by following the link in the episode description.

Gemma [00:14:17] So Tarika, you spoke a lot about this idea of you can't be who you can't see in the importance of not just role models, but just the imagery or the removal of stereotype or the creation of new, more diverse stereotypes, shall we say, in order to try and encourage people to even take part in entering this world. And I wonder if maybe you could provide us with a picture of someone, a different kind of stereotype, a different kind of image, perhaps through a story of someone who's gone through your program? 

Tarika [00:14:45] Oh, that's such a wonderful question. There's so many stories. And this is where you get into the tear-jerker kinds of things, because our girls are so phenomenal and they're constantly changing the world. And part of what we do, we always say at Girls Who Code, you can't be what you can't see that Marian Wright Edelman quote that is so salient. And part of what we do in addition to teaching girls computer science is really changing the image of what a computer programmer looks like and does. But I want to share a story of one of our students because there's nothing like someone who's actually gone through a program that our girls can and look up to and say, oh, my gosh, her story speaks to my story. She's doing exactly what I want to do. And then also just again, sometimes the real epitome of resilience. And so she's one of my favorite people on the planet and her name is KaYesu Machayo. And I never tire of talking about her story. And her mother was a refugee who fled a military dictatorship in Uganda at the age of 17 after her school had been bombed and her mom in the US worked multiple jobs to put herself through college, eventually getting a master's degree and raising KaYesu and her three siblings on her own. And then when we met KaYesu, she enrolled in our free seven week summer immersion program, she had no coding experience. She was a bright eyed and eager to learn. She was absorbing everything around her, her young life full of possibility. And then, as things turned out a week into the program, her father up and left, leaving KaYesu and her family facing eviction and struggling to find a place to live. And so here she was like starting this new journey with Girls Who Code and essentially her whole world fell apart. But her story is truly one of resilience. And she didn't miss a day of our program. She showed up every morning ready to learn alongside her 19 classmates who became, as she describes them, her sisters for life, a source of encouragement, support, and laughter. And so she left our program not just knowing how to code, but resolved to pursue a career in tech. And I literally just did a virtual coffee with KaYesu, she is still a computer science major at George Washington University on track to beat the odds to become one of the few women who graduate with a degree in the field. And for her, what's really, really humbling and inspiring for me is that her intention is to use her coding skills to address inequities in education and give other young people the same opportunities that she had. When we talk about role models, when we talk about changing the face of what a computer programmer looks like and does, that's KaYesu. And so I'm honored to be able to share her story with you. 

Gemma [00:17:21] Let's talk a little bit about that deep commitment to change. What are some of the ways that you plan on reaching this goal of closing the gender gap in entry level jobs by 2030? And specifically, I'm curious about the business community. How are you partnering with them? How are you forging change? And crucially, what's the role you actually expect businesses to play? And how would you go about measuring it? 

Tarika [00:17:43] Yeah. Oh, gosh, this is such a huge role to play. But I'll start by just saying that while girls’ participation in computer science ebbs over time, the biggest drop off happens between the ages of 13 and 17. What we've coined the middle school cliff. And so when you think about how we've designed our programing, a lot of it is geared to reach students in this critical moment. We know we got to engage them in computer science early and then continue to build their interests and their persistence as they enter college and then ultimately get their first job. And so we have programs like our Code at Home program and our clubs program, and those are all about sparking interest really early. So they get exposure to computer science and fall in love. And then we have our summer immersion program that builds on that initial interest and works to more directly support students in choosing to pursue CS when they get to college. And now, in this new era of our organization, now that we have 90,000 alums, we have a laser like focus on building pathways into the workforce so that women can persist. And so when you ask that critical question of what role does business have to play, this is where business comes in for our young women seeking jobs in tech. We are working directly with tech companies to challenge hiring practices and encourage them to see our students who often come from nontraditional backgrounds as viable candidates. And two programs that we've launched come to mind. One is our work prep, and this is a program that introduces college age women to career pathways in technology, and it's designed with the goal of leveling the playing field for our students. It's two weeks, it's virtual. It allows for flexibility and equal access to opportunity because we address some of the barriers that young women face. So balancing other responsibilities that I've mentioned alongside their studies, caregiving, other things like that. And for our participants and we have two cohorts of 50 women each, they learned about internships and entry level opportunities. They got to connect with potential mentors and sponsors and industry, and they develop their networking skills and partners - this is very critical, agree to consider our alumni without a GPA requirement. And I think that we are trying to continue to push this conversation so that they're committed to identifying other credential-based barriers in their recruiting process and eliminating them. So that was one program. The other one that we're also working on and where business comes in is our hiring summit. In 2021 one, we launched our first ever hiring summit, a one-day virtual event designed to connect the Girls Who Code community with technical career opportunities and connect hiring managers with a diverse slate of candidates. Because of the pandemic, we heard from our alums who when we surveyed the respondents, said 30 percent of them said they had lost their internship and 40 percent of our seniors said they were still looking for full time employment. This hiring summit was a direct response to that. So they would gain access to opportunities for internships and post graduate employment. And we didn't want them to lose momentum in this critical path to exciting careers. So we had this summit. It took place in January and included over 800 young women. And one success story from this is at one of the companies in attendance actually ended up hiring 17 of our alums, which was just mind blowing. And we absolutely use it as a way to talk about success. 

Gemma [00:21:08] I love that, at the end of the day this is not just about how many people showed up at the summit. It's is like, well, actually how you get jobs at the end of this? Really, really being real about that. This next question I'm going to ask you, I'm always hesitant to ask when we talk about questions of inequity, which is, you know, what are the benefits that come with having a diverse workforce intact? And the reason I'm hesitant is because to me, it was about doing the right thing. Right? And a lot of the time we talk about, well, you know, it makes your business more productive and so on and so forth, which to me seems like a bad justification for doing the right thing. However, I would love for you to perhaps paint a bit of a picture of, from your perspective, what an equitable world looks like in tech, maybe to try and answer that question in a slightly different way than just trying to say that makes people more money, shall we say. 

Tarika [00:21:55] I think you're not wrong, though, to talk about why it's important pragmatically, but also why just morally it's the right thing to do. And I talked about our vision that we want our computer science classrooms, we want our workplaces to reflect the diversity that we see in our world, in our community. And we know that we're doing this work because especially our young women of color continue to not have a seat at the table. You know, the first and most important thing we gain by closing the gender gap in tech is that we're empowering young women to seek out these exciting, thriving careers of the future and frankly, offer them the improved quality of life and the upward mobility that a career in tech can provide. Tech jobs are the fastest growing occupations in the US. And as I mentioned, more than half a million jobs by 2029. And these are jobs that pay the median wage in tech is more than double the median national wage. And when you think about this, young women, especially young women of color, have a lot to gain from pursuing careers in tech. But then let's talk a little bit about that second pragmatic part of it, which you were saying. You hate to focus on that, but let' - we have to, right? What do we stand to gain with a more diverse workforce in tech right? Tech currently serves only a small group of people because that's who's given a seat at the table. When we shift the status quo, we can begin to envision a future where the technology we use on a daily basis is more representative of our diversified world. And, you know, when it really comes down to it, I think we actually sometimes have to lean on the pragmatic and just remind people this is good for business. And when you keep making products that don't actually meet the needs of half the population, meet the needs of people of color, it is not a long-term plan for success. And I think that the companies that are at the forefront of changing who they have in the conversation, who they lean on for expertise and talent that they don't leave all this amazing talent on the table are the ones who are going to be at the forefront of a movement that is so much more inclusive and frankly efficacious and successful. So that's my hope. 

Gemma [00:24:08] Let's talk a little bit then about what that looks like from the business standpoint, in terms of how to get there. You've been quoted as saying that creating work for the world isn't just about teaching girls to code, it's also about brave transformational leadership. I wonder if you could elaborate on that. What is brave transformational leadership? Is equity coming from the top down, is it bottom up, is it both? Tell us a little bit about what leadership looks like here. 

Tarika [00:24:31] I think you're right. It's definitely always both. No surprise. We need leaders in tech to challenge the status quo, to interrogate the hiring practices and work policies that I've mentioned that we know at their core are rooted in systemic racism and sexism that alienate women and people of color. They need to be committed to making real change. But, and this is something that is very close to our work. We also need to empower young women to speak up to advocate for themselves, knowing that they're not going to jeopardize their career by doing so. Any efforts to tackle systemic racism and sexism will naturally be met with resistance. That is just the nature of the problem. It is so difficult and we're all trying to get at it in different ways. But it's important for us to persist because we all have so much to gain from a diverse tech industry. We always encourage companies and leaders to your question to look deeply at their own practices, interrogate what they're doing to alienate young women or what they're doing to prevent young women from being hired in the first place. There is no magical blueprint for companies around this, but at a minimum, we hope companies have discussions about work culture as well as the academic credentialing that I mentioned before. We're also asking that folks keep an open mind redefining what they see as an appealing hiring candidate. To my story about the company that hired 17 of our young women, one company, they clearly came in with intentionality. They came in with leadership. They came in with the mindset that they were going to change the dynamics at their company and they operationalized that and put something into motion that was very different than the way companies think about this. Are they allowing women, you know, beyond that to access promotions, do they keep women of color on track for leadership opportunities? This kind of self reflection isn't easy, but it can be the difference between an all white male office and an office that's more like it more accurately reflects the world we're living in today. And we also need to listen to young people who are entering the workforce, right? They're the ones who are the experts in their own needs. They're the ones grappling with immense challenges that generations before never had to experience. And so we need to hear from them, you know, and if we're going to transform the workforce as we know it and address the toxic work culture that causes 50 percent of women to leave tech roles in their first five years, that's what we have to do. And so, again, every company is different. And so employees are going to have different needs. But increasingly, young people are telling us that in order to do their best work and have the kinds of careers they want to have, they also need systems of support that allow them to live fuller lives outside of the office, including remote work, paid leave, and caregiving services. 

Gemma [00:27:15] Let's build on this last point that you said there, because I think this is one of the biggest topics of conversation that we've been having, particularly around the pandemic, of course you can't really escape, although we've got pretty far into this conversation without talking about COVID that much. But, you know, the pandemic has shown us that change can happen really quickly given the right market conditions, and particularly when it comes to changing working conditions, digital transformation, and perhaps resistance or now lack of resistance to it, which then obviously paves the way in some sense for more opportunities for women in tech because of these different work cultures and so on and so forth. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that, how I guess digital transformation perhaps can help shift some of these internal structures. And, you know, looking ahead, are you encouraged by this as perhaps a signal for how quickly the tech world could change? 

Tarika [00:28:05] Such a thoughtful question. Thank you. I can talk a little bit about sort of what we've learned and experienced in the pandemic and sort of what hopefulness I may have around what's possible for industry, tech in particular. And I am a lifelong educator and always bring that lens to this moment. And the pandemic revealed massive gaps in education for low income students and students of color. And it really basically exacerbated all of these challenges that we've been working on at Girls Who Code for close to a decade. Nothing short of a crisis. But when you ask about what I'm hopeful about, it also presented opportunities for maximizing the accessibility of programs like the ones we have at Girls Who Code, allowing students to continue their path to careers in tech. And for us, our lens is always shaped by our community and our population. We understood that half of the students, the girls we serve come from historically underrepresented groups, Black, Latina, low income communities. And we knew we had to act really fast to adapt our programing to fit our new reality of virtual learning. And I think I talked about the summer immersion program, but again, the transformation from seven weeks to two weeks, thinking about know, we really designed this new two-week program to meet the needs of our hardest to reach girls. So instead of building it a different way, we're like, OK, what must we do differently? We thought about Wi-Fi because we knew that our girls were driving to fast food parking lots to gain access to internet. We thought about whether or not they would need to be sent a computer. We thought about whether they were sharing that computer with other siblings, their living circumstances, and we decided that we were going to try to create something that was going to incorporate best practices in digital learning and be best in class. So things that we did included shorter days live and asynchronous instruction, small group work, office hours, project based learning and, talk about a revelation, our enrollment jumped by more than 200 percent. We actually reached more students from poor and rural parts of the country and saw this massive increase in our geographic diversity in urban and rural communities. And then the thing that's really critical is that we actually saw equally strong outcomes for low income Black Latinx students who are historically left behind by remote instruction. And students who participated in the virtual program were just as likely to be interested in pursuing a career in tech as those who participated in in-person program. So all of this to say, it's like we saw that we were on the right track with this pivot to virtual learning, and it underscored the importance of continuing to make our programing accessible and flexible. And tech companies have a lesson to learn from this, right? if you think about it, we prioritize certain things. We prioritize accessibility, flexibility, and we knew diversity and maintaining like, getting to have as many girls, especially the most marginalized girls, participate in our programs would be crucial. And that drove our design, it drove our next steps, and if tech companies think this way, they, too would be able to engage who they want to engage and see the kinds of outcomes that they want to see. 

Gemma [00:31:26] Last question for you. We have a lot different kinds of people that listen in to our show, but we do have a lot of people who are at various different kinds of businesses listening because they want to do business better. They want to improve things. But there is bottom line, morally, you name it. So I wondered if maybe as a parting shot, you could maybe dispense with a little bit of advice or maybe a good next step. What would be something that you would say to people who are thinking, I want to improve things, I want my business to be more inclusive, I want to start helping change mindsets, change structures, you name it. What would be a good place to start after listening to the show? 

Tarika [00:32:07] Yeah, no, such a great question. And I had the immense privilege and honor to be at the White House last week, talking with a number of leaders and the President about the importance of cybersecurity and pathways for women in particular into that workforce. And some of those conversations converged around the outcomes that we saw from our hiring summit where we were in awe of just the intentionality of this one partner that hired 17 of our young women. And the more that I talked to individuals who were present about this wonderful thing that we accomplished, the more that I saw that as much as there was intention and eagerness to be able to change practice, there were real disconnects between who were the decision makers and who were the folks who were like, this is great, we want our company to look really diverse. Are those the recruiters? Are those the hiring managers? Know your company and know that your company is its own ecosystem. I mentioned there's no magic blueprint here. You're all different. But who's talking to whom about who gets a seat at the table? Who gets to have that first interview? Look at how - who are you hiring from? I remember talking to a partner who with a straight face said to me, it is easier to get into Harvard than it is to get an internship at our company. And I thought to myself, that's not a bragging right. And I know that in that moment they thought it was. So there's still this mix of meritocracy and like the ways that we tend to think about things that we still obsess about because it kind of guided our own journeys, right? You work hard, you do this, you went to this school, this is what happens for you next. You have to dispel that. And it only starts with conversations, but also commitment. Like, are you going to say that maybe I don't need a four year degree for this role? That came up in the conversation at the White House, where many of these folks all thinking about cybersecurity realize, let's be honest, including universities, we don't need a four year degree here. We also might be able to think of credentialing. That's a phenomenal pathway for young people to gain opportunity. Who are you hiring? What does it look like? Who are you leaving out? What are your practices internally? Let's say - and the other thing I talk about, too, you can't just tap talent. You can't just say, oh, we've hired all these people. Isn't this great? The revolving door, 50 percent of women leave by the age of 35, means that drop these women in for lack of a better term. How are they supported? How are we supporting people of color in general? Is there mentorship? Are there pathways for promotion? It is a rich, robust, complex conversation. And my parting words of advice is to begin to have it not make assumptions that everyone else is having it within your company. I promise you, it is not necessarily happening and certainly not happening in a coherent way that then gets operationalized translating into the hiring of more marginalized people and the diversification of the tech force that we desperately need. 

Gemma [00:35:04] Thank you for that answer, Tarika. I think sometimes these topics are very complex and you've expressed how complex they are, but sometimes that does leave people sort of going, what on earth do I do next? And I think that just - 

Tarika [00:35:15] Yeah, what do you do next? It's so hard right? But you got to start somewhere. And I'm so grateful for that question. 

Gemma [00:35:20] No. And I think that just that super practical point of just get to know your company, that's arguably quite an easy thing to do. 

Tarika [00:35:27] And folks are surprised! Folks are surprised. I can tell you, I've had conversations with wonderful partners who believe in our mission and are shocked that no one got hired at the hiring summit. They're like, what happened? Which means that as much as they are passionate about it, they didn't actually talk to their team because it might be two teams removed and they assume that certain things are happening. But that team has to have an orientation like we're coming in with a different lens. We're coming in really committed to thinking about these candidates and the diversity that they bring and the resilience and the bravery in that their profiles may not resemble the typical Ivy League profile that we have as our threshold. And this is the lens we're going to bring. Here are some competencies that we want to flesh out and look for. That takes work. And so I think if folks are willing to do that work, they're going to be so pleased with the outcomes, because the one company that hired 17, they're still raving about what this means for them, and we're just so proud that it happened. 

Gemma [00:36:23] Tarika, thank you so much for coming on the show and bringing both so much information and practical insights and examples. But, of course, also your passion and your background story and what I think is so important that we, as you say, have these conversations as much as possible and encourage people and welcome people into having these conversations themselves in their own time, so, Tarika thank you so much for coming and joining us on the show. 

Tarika [00:36:46] Thank you so much Gemma, such a pleasure. 

Gemma [00:36:51] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Tarika's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. And don't forget to hit subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

Ad [00:37:19] Dynamics 365 delivers next generation ERP and CRM business applications, helping employees at every level reason over data, predict trends and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo of Dynamics 365 today by following the link in the episode description.