Dear Tech Companies: It’s time to rethink what you know about the Class of 2025.
Each story in our Dear Tech Companies series focuses on issues in the tech space and provides strategies and solutions to companies looking to invest in meaningful solutions that will drive impactful industry change and make the industry more accessible to Black, Latina, and Native American women.
Picture this: It’s 2025, and your company is welcoming a new batch of Black, Latina, and Native American technologists. Many of these professionals have come of age in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid significant learning losses, and at a time when the Great Reshuffle has disproportionately impacted women of color in the workforce. These workers are asking questions about whether their jobs align with their personal values, whether they have the time to nurture and acquire skills, and whether employee benefits account for their whole selves. Are you ready with answers?
Some of the BLNA women entering your workforce in 2025 might be freshmen today, enrolled in four-year colleges. These students were likely high school juniors when the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives — taking AP CS classes, sitting for SATs and ACTs, and trying to find community virtually as the world around them changed. In fact, a fair number of them were high school seniors when the world shut down, and may complete a bachelor’s degree in more than 4 years, as is the case with 56 percent of all U.S. undergraduates.
But that’s only part of the picture. While much of the national conversation focuses on “traditional” four-year college pathways, community colleges serve around 40% of the country’s undergraduates, a large number of whom are Black and Latino. Additionally, around 60% of all enrolled undergraduates are aged 25 and older, balancing work, life, and their education. Not only do these students work full time while enrolled, they are also caregivers — with BLNA women more likely to be caring for dependents. Without support tailored to these students’ needs, it’s no surprise that BLNA students end up switching their majors at higher rates or leaving institutions without graduating.
2025 is less than three years away. What can companies do now to welcome a diverse workforce of COVID-impacted professionals into tech, and keep them there?
1. Want to reinvent recruiting? Build relationships.
While the pandemic uprooted previous recruiting go-tos like job fairs and info sessions, it also gave us room to think outside the box and better reach students taking online classes, fulfilling caregiving responsibilities, and working full-time jobs.
The key? Investing in relationships. If you’re not able to reach students on campus in the ways you’d like, find partners who can — university program leads, non-profits, student ambassadors, and alumni in your company. Similarly, moving beyond info sessions to provide micro-internships and fellowship programs gives you a chance to build relationships with BLNA students directly: by investing in their talent and giving them a chance to explore what working with you looks like.
2. Your work doesn’t end with recruitment.
So you’ve recruited a cohort of BLNA women with diverse pathways into tech — with tech apprenticeships, gap years, community college degrees on their resumes. Are you investing in their professional development once they enter the workforce?
Shifting out of the classroom and into the office should be a continuation of growth and learning, not a rude awakening.
One place to begin your investment in access, exposure, and professional development for incoming cohorts is to disaggregate data by gender, race, and level: gauging how many BLNA women occupy technical, experienced, senior level, and leadership roles, and whether your company is actively investing in their professional growth.
3. Culture still eats strategy for breakfast.
Over 89% of young workers, particularly BLNA workers, prioritize mental health, kindness, and alignment with personal values at work, but only 32% of employees receive paid personal or mental health days.
Fostering a culture of openness, belonging, and equity is no longer a checkbox — for the youngest professionals entering the workforce, it’s a priority. If you’re investing in growing your business, but not in growing your pool of employee benefits and mental health supports, you risk impacting retention, productivity, and your company’s work culture.
Tomorrow’s tech workforce is in the classroom today, taking extra credits, working an extra shift, going the extra mile to look after their families. Tech companies can go the extra mile too, ensuring that these professionals enter a workplace that values their full potential and talent, and acknowledges their unique needs. It’s no longer enough to ask if these graduates are workforce-ready. We need to ensure our workplaces are graduate-ready.