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Equality in the tech industry

An annual symposium, hosted this year at the University of Michigan, seeks to develop senior-level executives of color.| Short Read

Robert Scott (BSE CE ’75) is the Director of Diversity Initiatives at Michigan Engineering and Co-Implementation Lead for the College of Engineering’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

My 40+ year career in information technology began with my earning one of the very first computer engineering degrees offered by Michigan Engineering. Graduating in 1975, my engineering degree prepared me to take on increasing levels of responsibility as an IT executive. My education changed my life and enabled me to make a difference for many others walking the same path.

Through the generosity of Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, and M.S. Krishnan, Associate Dean for Executive Programs at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, the University hosted the May 2019 symposium of the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF). The forum is the only national organization committed to the continuous professional development of senior-level executives of color in the technology industry.

At its inception in 1996, only 3% of senior-level positions in the technology industry were held by blacks. With more than 1.2 million computer-related job openings expected by 2022, ITSMF is committed to increasing the number of qualified black professionals for these positions.

In addition to my College role as Director of Diversity Initiatives, I also serve as Vice President for Professional Development for ITSMF. I was so excited to bring my IT life back to the place where it all started.

The College vision of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are in direct alignment with that of ITSMF. The yearlong theme of ITSMF is “Connected: The Integration of Life and Technology.” This focus fits right into the core values of Michigan Engineering.

We will continually discover new ways to integrate technology into our everyday lives. But the real impact lies in an increased understanding of human behavior. That’s the power of DEI. It can help us understand those relationships between technology, the user and the real world. Then we can develop new and better technologies that will enhance lives versus controlling them, enabling people rather than hindering them.

At ITSMF, we believe that information technology and technology platforms connect people and ideas; nurtured leaders can transform future leaders in mind, body and soul; and diverse leadership invites new perspectives needed for innovation.

Topics of exploration at at the symposium included:

  • Eliminating unconscious bias from artificial intelligence
  • Defining what it means to be an “ITSMF leader” (transformational leadership; a global mindset; and a passion for family, community and social activism)
  • The technology pipeline for minorities (how we can augment the STEM career pathway)

We also had a very impactful community outreach program for middle school students that combined art with design thinking.

I am proud that Michigan stepped up to host this important event. It has been said that, “If I can see it, I can be it.” The symposium brought a myriad of African-American role models to campus for all to see.

Gallimore is also the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Aerospace Engineering. Krishnan is also Accenture Professor of Computer and Information Systems and Professor of Technology and Operations.

  • Two middle school students work on a design challenge
    Middle school students participate in a design challenge during an Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) symposium on North Campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on May 18, 2019. Photo: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing
  • Students and guide sit at a round table to work on a design challenge
    Middle school students participate in a design challenge during an Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) symposium on North Campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI on May 18, 2019. Photo: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing
  • Ibrahim Jackson and Michael Jones talk while seated on a stage
    Ibrahim Jackson, Head of North America Leading Edge Forum, and Michael Jones, Managing Director at Accenture, speak during an Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) group panel at an ITSMF symposium. Photo: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering
DEI Strategic Plan
Post-it notes paper the windows of the inside of the Duderstadt connector

Building communities and creative learning spaces is one of the strategic goals of Michigan Engineering's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. Learn more about the plan and how you can get involved.

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Michigan Engineering
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