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Techonomy Preview: Beyond Tech's 'Pipeline Problem' Toward Inclusive Meritocracies

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 6/11/2015 Laura Mather
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Techonomy kicks off November 8 and is one of my favorite events of the year. Thought leaders from business, academia, government, social sectors and beyond gather to wrestle with some of the toughest questions that have arisen in our digital age, drawn by our common motivation to make the world a better place. How is technology shaping cultural change, our moral compass, our social nature? What kinds of jobs are being automated and what types of jobs are growing? How do we educate and equip tomorrow's workforce to fill jobs we don't even know about today?
In the year since I last attended Techonomy, we've seen major shifts in the workforce. In 2015, millennials became the largest labor force in the United States. In a report published in April of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that 40.4% of the employed labor force are in alternative work arrangements. Employers are having to think in entirely new ways about how to attract and retain top talent as we prepare for the horizontal, distributed workforce of the future.
An organization's most valuable asset is its people. And yet, we struggle to optimize this resource. Our hiring and promotion decisions are driven more by gut-level biases than data. The result is workplaces that are mirror-tocracies instead of meritocracies.
The talent session I'll be joining on Nov. 9, Scouting for Talent, Digging for Diversity, will be an amazing opportunity to explore both the causes for these shortcomings as well as the ways technology is disrupting and rebuilding structures of old.
One of the key learnings I hope individuals will take away from this session will be that diversity in corporate America is not just a pipeline problem. I expect we'll talk about the fact that only half of Latinos and African-Americans who graduate with technical degrees get jobs in those fields. Millions of dollars are being spent shoring up the pipeline to get more minorities ready for working in technology and corporate America; and yet, so much more needs done to address the biased decision making causing these same candidates to be turned away when they apply for jobs. We also need better solutions for fostering inclusion and retaining diverse talent once they are in the door. Given the laser focus of corporate America on return on investment, I expect that we'll soon see a shift in our strategy of throwing millions of dollars at one part of the problem (the pipeline) to driving more impact at the next stage (hiring). A goal I have for the Techonomy talent session is to stir conversation about the work that can be done to address bias in hiring and promotions--in addition to mending our talent pipelines--to better foster equal representation in our workplaces.
Another outcome of our panel I hope to see is better understanding of other manifestations of inequality in our tech-economy. Gary Bolles will advise us on the challenges we face as tech threatens to widen the wealth gap, as well as strategies for applying tech to see greater economic mobility. We'll also talk with James Gardner, CTO of Mindjet, for how totally new and disruptive technology can be applied at enterprise scale for greater productivity and innovation. I hope this conversation will serve as a reminder that our corporate workplaces are not only locuses of power, but should also be forces for positive change in the world.
With McKinsey's Lareina Yee at the helm as our moderator, we are guaranteed to hone in on some meaningful solutions, starting with insights on how these issues play out across organizations of all shapes and sizes and in multiple geographies. Join us for the livestream of much of the conference on the Techonomy site starting Sunday Nov. 8.

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