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Baltimore Tracks is setting the table for DEI work in the local tech community

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

The 40 member organizations of the 2020-founded coalition, which is committed to improving racial equity in the local tech community, hired a consultancy firm to conduct this year’s diversity, equity and inclusion report.

Mattingly Solutions will build and conduct the survey, and offer recommendations for action and workshops to help member orgs boost diversity within their ranks.

Last year’s DEI report created a snapshot of the makeup of the Baltimore tech workforce through the self-reporting of its at-the-time 19 member orgs. The findings: Local tech workers are 67% white, 14% Asian and 7% Black. Contrast that to the city as a whole, which is 32% white, 3% Asian and 63% Black, per the latest US Census data.

“A big part of the problem is a lot of the companies don’t know where to start,” said Michael Castagnola, Baltimore Tracks steering committee member and chief of staff at Baltimore software development consultancy SmartLogic. “Everybody has good intentions and wants to improve their [DEI] and belonging, but it can be hard to get started. ‘How do I put one foot in front of the other?'”

Michael Castagnola. (Courtesy photo)

Castagnola said he doubts most companies implemented DEI strategies after getting the results from the first report, but think this year will be different, thanks to the support mechanisms in place for member organizations via the expertise of the consultancy firm.

“Our business isn’t to force folks to do stuff, but to set the table in a way that companies will be able to take action,” he said. “They’ll get the data, have a way to aggregate and present it. That presentation should lead to opportunities to take next steps.”

Unfortunately, it’s not abnormal for the process of DEI to be slow going. Across big tech companies like Google and Microsoft, the number of US technical employees who are Black or Latinx rise by less than a percentage point between 2014 and 2019, based on numbers self-reported by the tech giants.

Beyond the data collection itself, Baltimore Tracks is putting action behind its internal research by participating in a midyear version of its six-week, summertime paid work experience partnership for youth with computer science education nonprofit Code in the Schools, technical training nonprofit Pass IT On and Baltimore City Public Schools. The midyear internship program offers companies the chance to make a direct impact on the diversity of the tech talent pipeline by giving Baltimore youth firsthand experience inside local tech firms. Twelve companies and 14 youth are slated to participate.

This year’s DEI report is expected out the second week of July. By the end of this year, Castagnola expects progress.

“Hopefully, the forcing of pen to paper around having to report something will demand some thinking,” Castagnola said. “What is one thing your company will legitimately do to address or improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in your company?”

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