New Report on Latines in Tech Underscores Need for PIT Pathways

Hispanic Serving Institutions and Community Colleges can play a key role in diversifying the tech sector
Blog Post
May 13, 2024

In the fast-evolving landscape of technology, the demand for skilled technical professionals continues to increase with no sign of stopping. But despite society’s growing reliance on technology, not all segments of the population have equal access to opportunities within the tech ecosystem. According to the latest findings from the Kapor Foundation’s 2024 Latine Tech Ecosystem report, the Latine community, which represents 18.7% of the U.S. population and accounts for half of the country’s population growth, remains on the periphery of this burgeoning sector. In California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Illinois — which collectively house two-thirds of the Latine population in the U.S. — around 40% of the Latine workforce is at risk of displacement due to technological automation. And within the tech sector itself, Latines face a significant gap in representation across education, workforce, and entrepreneurial ventures.

The underrepresentation of Latines in tech is more than a matter of workforce diversity; it is a critical issue in public interest technology. PIT focuses not just on who is part of the workforce, but also on how the products of technology — spanning software to hardware and everything in between — are designed, implemented, and evaluated. For the Latine community, this means ensuring that digital products are developed with a keen understanding of Latines’ unique needs and the potential threats they face.

Nearly 1 in 5 workers in the U.S. is Latine, but only 1 in 10 holds a position in the tech sector, according to the Kapor Center report. Even more concerning is Latine representation in leadership. Latines hold just 5% of executive roles and a mere 3% of board seats in U.S.-based tech companies. Latines similarly occupy just 6% of technical roles in major U.S.-based tech firms, and if current trends persist, parity in the technical workforce will not be achieved until 2077.

These disparities are reflected further upstream in higher education, where Latine students interested in technology are trained and integrated into the workforce. Despite making up 17% of bachelor’s degrees conferred across all majors, Latine students account for only 13% of those in computing. At the graduate level, Latine students earn only 9% of master’s degrees and 7% of doctoral degrees in computing, compared to 13% and 10%, respectively, across all fields. Together, disparities in the tech workforce and education landscape highlight a significant underutilization of Latine talent in critical tech-related fields.

They also present a major opportunity for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and community colleges. These institutions are uniquely positioned to access and uplift underrepresented communities, functioning as bridges to higher education and specialized training in technology-related fields. HSIs in particular receive federal recognition for their significant role in Hispanic education by opening the door to funding and resources tailored to the needs of these communities. Community colleges, meanwhile, offer more accessible, flexible, and affordable education options than four-year degree pathways, including options closely aligned with technology industry needs such as skills-based learning and workforce readiness. HSIs and community colleges can equip students with critical PIT skills while creating pathways to tech careers and advanced education.

Programs such as the Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Awareness and Community Engagement at HSI Miami Dade College exemplify initiatives designed to close these gaps. Launched in 2019, GISEC equips students from underrepresented communities with valuable technical skills and embeds them in projects that address the pressing needs of their communities, such as disaster risk management in Miami-Dade County, an area profoundly affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters. Fellow HSI Florida International University has built skills-based certificate and degree programs in cybersecurity and technology policy for Hispanic students, first responders, and military veterans.

Another noteworthy example is the Associate’s Degree in Applied Sciences in Cybersecurity offered at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) in Arizona. As part of the Maricopa Community Colleges, one of the largest and oldest community college districts in the U.S., EMCC plays a crucial role as an HSI. The cybersecurity program at EMCC is designed to prepare students over two years to manage and secure network and server operations, emphasizing both the theoretical and practical aspects of network security. The curriculum includes specialized courses in Cybersecurity Fundamentals, Linux System Administration, Microsoft, and Cisco Networking CCNA Security. Importantly, this program prepares students for roles in industries that are vital to national and local governments, enhancing not only the students’ employment prospects but also their ability to contribute to the security and resilience of public and private sectors.

Focused investment to develop and expand programs such as these would better prepare Latine students for roles in both the private and public sectors of public interest technology. These programs, like others spearheaded by HSIs and community colleges, must be supported, replicated, and scaled to meet the urgent demand for a diverse and capable tech workforce prepared to push technology toward serving the public interest and the diverse needs of our communities.

The call to action is clear: Industry leaders, educational institutions, and policymakers must collaborate to create opportunities that can systematically reduce barriers to entry for Latine students in tech. This includes increasing funding for HSIs and community colleges as well as fostering partnerships that connect educational programs directly with tech companies and public sector organizations. Such collaborations can provide real-world experience through internships and apprenticeships, create career placement opportunities, and ensure curriculum relevance to the evolving demands of the tech industry.

It is crucial that funders and practitioners commit to building a diverse and inclusive tech workforce. Industry leaders, educational institutions, and policymakers should collaborate on expanding and supporting programs that guide Latine students into roles within the public and private sectors of public interest technology. By investing in these initiatives now, we can ensure that the digital future is shaped by a workforce as diverse as the communities that make up our country, ultimately fostering innovation and equity across the tech landscape.