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  • Writer's pictureClearly Innovative

CEO Aaron Saunders hopes to bring DC's resources together at In3DC to Increase Inclusive Innovation

Updated: Dec 14, 2018

This is an excerpt from an article by Mikhail Klimentov posted in the Renewal Project. The complete article can be viewed here.

Meet the entrepreneur building an inclusive tech culture in D.C

Software development CEO wants to create opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs and people interested in careers in technology and innovation field

Tech insiders often describe the industry as a meritocracy, where the most innovative thinkers rise to the top and the others fall by the wayside, regardless of background or demographics.

But the data paints a different picture.

Ninety-five percent of entrepreneurs and 97 percent of venture capitalists are white or Asian, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research released in January. And since entrepreneurs tend to invest in their friends and those like them, hiring often leads to more white and Asian entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Not a meritocracy, but a mirror-tocracy, as entrepreneur Mitch Kapor calls it.

Aaron Saunders, the CEO and founder of Clearly Innovative, a D.C.-based software development firm, and Luma Lab, a tech education and mentorship program, is seeking to change the trend. He thinks he may have his hands on a solution to tech’s diversity problem.

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that although “underrepresented minorities have done particularly well improving their representation among science and engineering masters degrees,” this hasn’t resulted in a proportional increase in representation in software and engineering fields: employment for African American and Hispanic graduates “has remained very low, staying between 3 percent and 5 percent over the past decade with no discernible trend.”

Maya A. Beasley, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, found that black students often fell into lower-paying, less prestigious jobs than their white peers because of the “anticipation of discrimination,” and a lack of adequate support networks in often-hostile work environments, among other factors.

One of the big problems, Saunders says, is the “incestuous” nature of hiring in tech. “It’s like, I might not be consciously not helping you because you’re black, but … if there’s a black guy there and there’s someone that I know through someone else, I’m probably gonna hook up the person that I know.”

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