Do a quick google search of “DFW startups” or “DFW startup scene”, and you’ll learn about the excitement of the burgeoning entrepreneurial community here in North Texas. Last week I attended an event at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center (The DEC) where I felt the energy and learned about the history surrounding entrepreneurship here in Dallas. It seems like Dallas is poised to become a TX startup hub with the likes of Austin. There are certainly plenty of co-working spaces around like the DEC, Addison Treehouse, and the cleverly titled Dallas Fort Work. I’ll have to do some additional research to name a Dallas-based startup that has some national acclaim, but I do know the infrastructure and community are here.
Among the most pressing issues in Tech nationally is the lack of gender and racial diversity . Most large Tech companies are releasing annual diversity reports and have hired executives in charge of increasing diversity in their ranks. The reports haven’t shown promising progress just yet. Some chalk up the lack of diversity to a pipeline problem — there just aren’t enough people of color or women studying in tech fields that would land them a gig at a Facebook or Google. That certainly seems to be apart of it as Edweek reported in 2015 no black people were taking AP computer science exam in nine states! Still, the systemic inequity that keeps people of color and women from accessing other opportunities, including a quality education, are at fault as well.
Dallas was thrust into the “national conversation” surrounding race in the most tragic and unfortunate way with the police shootings that occurred this month. I think anybody living here would know Dallas has had its problems with race prior to that event, but now they have been magnified. Perhaps now we have the opportunity to have some frank conversations and intentional actions around racial equity. A great place to start would be making our entrepreneurial community reflective of the diversity of our city.
I think improving the educational pipeline of diverse talent is crucial. It’s directly related to efforts by school board member Miguel Solis to end the school to prison pipeline by doing away with suspensions in early grades. We know those suspensions disproportionately affect students of color, especially black boys, which puts them at a greater risk of dropping out, and ending up in prison. Dallas can put itself ahead of the curve by adopting policies like this one, and building programs that increase the entrepreneurial activity of students of color.
That’s a part of the work we’re doing at the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy or IDEA . Starting as soon as next spring, we hope to place our students, who are mostly students of color, in internships within the entrepreneurial community and business community at-large. They’ll gain experience in the field, have access to mentorship, and hopefully position themselves to do amazing work or start ventures of their own before they graduate high school. It’s a small step towards a solution of a big problem.
Learn more about our school, and let’s have a conversation about these issues.