Much of the focus of IT industry diversity efforts has been at the university level and beyond. At Red Hat Czech, however, a systematic focus on mentoring in high school and even grade school is paying real dividends in gender diversity in our hiring.
Like others, Red Hat initially focused its academic diversity efforts on developing a broader talent pool in universities, supporting university-organized diversity and inclusion events aimed at uprooting the attitude that women and STEM don’t mix. For example, Red Hat supports the Czechitas Thesis Award (czechitas.cz), providing mentorship for young women passionate about working in IT.
However, influencing diversity at the university level may be too little too late. That’s a key reason we started our high school programs. The stigma attached to women in STEM is even more prevalent on the high school level, and that’s where the most work is needed. At events like the Brno University of Technology’s (F)IT Summer School for Girls (holky.fit.vutbr.cz), Red Hat has provided mentoring for high school students by demonstrating what working in IT entails and showing why women have an important place in the equation.
Increasing diversity and inclusion is not a magic trick where we can conjure results with a snap of a finger. It takes a while to see demonstrable results. And it’s likely that change cannot be linked to one cause. Rather, it is driven by a combination of sustained efforts and early intervention, rather than waiting until it may be harder to drive change.