NACME and big brands partner to bridge the STEM diversity gap in Silicon Valley

Billy Anders (left) from Microsoft served as a panel moderator during the NACME summit in California. He is pictured with  panel members (left to right) Jenny Diani, Autodesk; Brian Reaves, Dell; and Michelle Prescott, IBM (Photo Courtesy of NACME)

The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. held a national summit in California this month to bring together thought leaders from multiple industries to discuss innovative ways to recruit, retain and promote diverse engineering and computer science talent.

At the summit, “NACME: A Diversity Solution,” held Sept. 19-21 in San Francisco and Palo Alto, the council called upon leading companies to join forces to increase the qualified under-represented minority talent pool.

“Collaboration plays a key role in solving complex problems. We must work together to create innovative solutions that drive metric-based outcomes,” said NACME president and CEO Michele Lezama.

The core of the summit was a symposium, held at Ford Greenfield Labs in Palo Alto. The symposium addressed the challenges, opportunities and innovative ideas necessary to close the gap in diverse technical talent. The symposium kicked off with welcome remarks by Frederiek Toney, vice president and corporate officer at Ford Motor Company, and keynote remarks from Justin Steele, America’s lead at Google.org.

Steele’s passionate remarks reflected his experiences as an engineer of color and Google’s innovative examples of forward-thinking programs to engage under-represented audiences in tech. The symposium focused on effective recruitment, retention and promotion of diverse tech talent with two panels, which included representatives from BP, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, Talmetrix and Viacom. The panelists challenged members of the audience to actively engage with each other to develop creative collaborative solutions.

Photo Courtesy of NACME

Other highlights of the summit included an opening reception hosted by Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost, who welcomed a distinguished group of representatives covering a national footprint of universities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Miami Florida, senior officials from leading technology corporations, and NACME scholars, who are under-represented students majoring in computer science and engineering.

“Lack of diversity in tech is an important problem, and it’s totally solvable if we all work together,” said Anagnost, who thanked the group for coming to the Bay Area.  “I encourage you to continue to do what you’re doing, continue to engage with us, and thank you for coming to San Francisco to bring focus on the computer science talent acquisition problem.”

The final day of the summit was a private NACME board of directors meeting hosted by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The company’s president and CEO, Antonio Nero, welcomed board members and applauded their efforts in providing scholarships, internships and other employment opportunities to qualified and underrepresented persons of color.

“NACME is leading the charge to support Silicon Valley and corporations across the country to create an engineering and computer science workforce that looks like America,” said Ray Dempsey, NACME board chair and chief diversity officer at BP America.

“NACME, in our more than 40-year history, has offered scholarships to top-performing talent in this space. We call on companies to join NACME today to help increase a diverse qualified technology talent pool.”

Raquelle "Rocki" Harris
Raquelle "Rocki" Harris

As a passionate media presence, Rocki covers culture, entertainment, and relationships. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @writedowntoit, and Twitter @writedowntoit3. She is also the host/producer of Rocki's Reality podcast (@rockisreality), where she facilitates unfiltered and unapologetic convos about culture, music and relationships.

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