When we think “tech”, or are asked what we think of when they hear the words “tech industry”, most people think of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and even Boston Dynamics, but Springfield is actually a booming industry of tech jobs; and one that desperately can use our attention.
Springfield is fortunate to be a base to some large-scale companies like our local company O’Reilly, and Jack Henry and Expedia, to name a few, but when those companies come to mind, we think “automotive”, “banking”, “travel”, although these companies are actually some of the largest employers of IT and tech-related jobs in the city, along with others you might be surprised to learn of like Cox Health, Mercy, and even Bass Pro. Bass Pro alone has nearly 15 positions available within their IT department on their website. Cox and Mercy have several. O’Reilly, Jack Henry, and Expedia are consistently growing and hiring, and that’s not including the numbers of positions available from the multitude of smaller firms local to the Ozark including IT and digital agencies. These companies are never able to hire enough people to fill those positions due to a lack of potential employees with experience, and that has a lot to do with the lack of diversity within the industry as a whole.
The computer sciences and maker industry (the tech industry altogether) are two of the largest industries populated mostly by a certain demographic of employees, and are vastly lacking in diversity because of it.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to experience this phenomenon first-hand while working for a local company. I was seated in an area next to the IT department, which was vastly populated by that certain demographic, with very few females or people color within the department. This isn’t through fault of the companies, but rather lack of outreach andeducation over decades past to these underrepresented groups. Thankfully, there are many wonderful organizations that seek to provide opportunities to these groups that I’ve watched develop over the 10 years I’ve been studying the industry. Organizations that started even as soon as 2011 and 2012 like Girls Who Code and Women Who Code started small and grew into large organizations that partner with, and act as resources for tons of communities, and they continue to keep growing.
Because of these types of organizations, and my non-profit The Geek Foundation that I co-founded with local female engineer Maranda Provance to teach free programming classes to kids and adults with the aim to increase diversity in our tech community, our organizations can focus on bringing diversity into the tech field for women, people of color, and other underrepresented minorities. Statistics are slowly beginning to change nationwide, but there is still much room for improvement ahead of us, especially within our local community.
Our goal at The Geek Foundation is to partner with other great local organizations like Minorities in Business, the local NAACP chapter, local schools, and other non-profits to provide outreach and recruiting to increase diversity in Springfield’s unknown-to-most, but huge, tech industry.
Not only are tech jobs so valuable because they offer some of the highest-paying, highest-rewarding careers, the companies offering them have room and desire to grow exponentially as more people become educated with the modern technologies that provide their companies with capacity to grow. Outside of local companies, there is also a vast number of these same types of jobs that are available globally and allow employees to work from home with the right skillset, creating opportunities for people to stay in the community while working remotely, earning high wages, and stimulating the economy in return.
Written by Krista Peryer,
The Geek Foundation Co-Founder