Let’s face it: tech is an industry with a lot of issues, and both those who work in it and those who use technology daily are only becoming more vocal. A sore thumb among the issues — and one that’s getting a lot more attention as of late — is tech’s diversity problem. In Los Angeles for example, tech companies’ workforces are comprised of only 4.4 percent African Americans and 12.7 percent Latinos — in a city that’s more than 10 percent black and nearly 50 percent Latino. Look at executive representation and pay gaps and the problem’s even worse.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and there are people working to fix it. One of these individuals is Taylor McPartland, who founded ScaleLA, an organization focused on building a pipeline between Los Angeles’ local communities and its tech scene, so that the city’s burgeoning tech community will better reflect the city’s diverse talent. I sat down with Taylor to discuss his company and his vision for the future of tech in southern California and how what he’s doing can be a model scaled far beyond.
TG: Why did you decide to create ScaleLA?
TM: The Los Angeles tech scene is heating up and growing by day, but technology communities don’t reflect the rich diversity of the city. ScaleLA was created to fix that disconnect. We believe that for technology to be a true engine of growth and progress, companies need the full participation of the talent in the city. We run a number of programs that seek to shape the future of LA’s tech scene. Right now, we’re really excited about Mentor2Mentor, which links local high school students, entrepreneurial college students, and leading tech companies.
TG: Sounds cool. But how is this different from any other mentoring program: Most mentoring programs follow a simple 1-1 structure. We’re 1-1-1. That means that high school students are directly mentored by college students from local universities, who in turn are paired with a professional mentor from a participating tech company (right now, we’re working with Google and WeTransfer). We also have seen so many mentoring programs fail to meet their potentials because there’s a lack of purpose and direction, so we designed Mentor2Mentor as a project-based program. Our participants tackle real-world community issues.
TG: Give me an example.
TM: For our pilot program, we’re collaborating with a non-profit called Safe Place for Youth to design a program in which high school students and their college mentors work together to combat youth homelessness. Youth homelessness is a massive issue in Los Angeles. Today, there are at least 6,000 homeless kids on the streets of LA County. We not only think that this is totally unacceptable — we think that our kids have the smarts and the tools to help fix this problem once and for all. Teams will work together to craft a plan, which they will pitch to panels of local government officials and tech companies. Winning teams will partner with private and public sector leaders to implement their plans.
TG: What’s your long-term vision for Mentor2Mentor?
TM: We want to create a lasting, sustainable workforce pipeline for diverse talent to enter the tech ecosystem. We think that this simultaneously serves two interlinked goals: first, it ensures the tech sector has access to a diverse array of talent that will allow it to become a true engine of progress; and second, it will help tackle systemic, pressing issues in our community.
TG: Why should people get involved?
TM: We’re literally changing the future of the tech scene, creating the world we want to see. Whether you’re in government, education, tech, the nonprofit world, or are simply an engaged member of the LA community, you have a stake in this future.
TG: How do I get involved?
TM: Contact us! We’re always looking for schools and tech companies who want to partner with us. And if you think you’d be a good fit for our team, we want to hear from you.
For more information, check out ScaleLA’s Mentor2Mentor program website.