by Justin Motley, Social Media Editor
Students, professors and tech enthusiasts gathered in the Earl G. Graves School of Business for another installment of the Presidential Distinguished Speaker Series, an initiative that brings some of the nation’s thought leaders from various professional fields to Morgan State University for open dialogue with the student body.
This particular forum, titled “The Future of Tech and Your Role in It”, comprised of President David Wilson sitting down with two prominent figures in the tech industry to talk diversity and inclusion in that space. Maxine Williams, Global Director of Diversity at Facebook, and Yolanda Mangolini, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Google, opened the floor for a relatively transparent conversation on the benefits of diversity in corporate cultures and how students can become competitive candidates for jobs in the industry.
“Without diverse perspectives you cannot innovate. Diverse teams produce better outcomes,” Mangolini included in her introduction.
Students who attended the series were eager to learn what it takes to land a job at these major companies in a world where undergraduate degrees have become rather ubiquitous and a requirement for many entry-level jobs.
“We are hiring builders. We like people who like to build stuff. We also like people who question things,” Williams said. “We want to know you have the skill.”
“Google is looking for people who are well rounded,” Mangolini said while using one of her colleagues, who was a former So You Think You Can Dance choreographer, as an example.
Williams went on to introduce the concept of cognitive diversity, which happens when different thought processes, experiences and perspectives are used in the pursuit of solving complex problems.
Cognitive diversity didn’t seem to be prioritized by companies like Facebook and Google until a couple of years ago when they started to publicize their diversity statistics, which, in turn, exposed that corporate representation of folks from different ethnic backgrounds and genders, other than white and male, was slim to none.
As one of the first tech companies to start the trend in 2014, Google reported a not so diverse workplace with an overall company racial makeup that included only three percent Hispanic and two percent black/African-American and two percent Hispanic and a percent black in tech roles. These numbers remained stagnant in 2015.
Facebook wasn’t much different in July when it was reported that the social network’s tech team was a percent black, three percent Hispanic and 17 percent women, numbers that hadn’t really budged since 2015.
With 30 percent of undergraduate computer science students learning at historically black colleges and universities, these two ladies hope that building a better connection with institutions like Morgan will not only help in diversifying their respective work places, but also inspire other tech leaders to follow suit.
Williams told Fortune about three programs Facebook has implemented to ensure diversity, one of them being a Facebook University that provides summer training for undergrads from underrepresented groups.
Google continues to address unconscious bias with trainings that over 65 percent of the staff have participated in and that new Googlers and managers are required to train in.