Over the past few years, Oregon’s technology industry has enjoyed a strong resurgence and now employs more than 90,000 workers. Unlike our historical roots in hardware-centric companies, software firms are now driving the majority of this growth. Given the general trend away from hardware to software-defined approaches, this comes as no surprise.
What might be unexpected, however, is that Oregon still falls below the national average for software-related jobs. Specifically, a recent industry benchmark issued by the Austin Technology Council (ATC) ranked Portland lower in terms of overall technology talent concentrations than major industry hubs across the U.S., such as San Jose, Seattle, Austin and San Francisco. Given the cluster-based nature of the technology industry, if we don’t establish Portland as a leading software development center now, there will be severe ramifications for our regional economic growth in the future.
So, how can Portland’s TechTown turn the tables and ensure we become a premiere software hub on a national and global level? By tapping into ALL the talent we have locally by committing to a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Today we are taking our first public steps to move these efforts forward, and have joined the Portland Development Commission (PDC), Technology Association of Oregon, Worksystems, Inc, and 12 other Portland companies in taking the Tech Diversity Pledge, an initiative that aims to improve training and hiring practices to create a more diverse workforce in Portland and beyond.
From its initial founding, Elemental has been committed to creating a workplace that fosters diversity and a culture that attracts, develops and retains talents of all backgrounds. We believe in the power of diversity and recognize that world-class innovation stems from inclusion, equality and transparency. To ensure accountability, we will self-report our diversity statistics on an annual basis.
The roots of gender and race underrepresentation in technology go deep into our education system and society. The focus on diversity and inclusion must start in early childhood — including reaching underrepresented young people. Later this month, I’ll share details about a unique event we’re holding this fall to promote greater diversity in Portland’s technology community. Funds from this event will be earmarked for a local group focused on making technology academic programs and careers more accessible to underrepresented youth.
The work we are taking on as rising tech companies to bring these issues to the surface is important. But it is just the beginning. We must be patient, as meaningful change of this magnitude takes time. Finally, we hope many more companies sign the pledge in the future. To ensure these efforts come to fruition, every company in Oregon’s tech sector must proactively support inclusivity and diversity.