Tech communities around the country are confronting inequality and a lack of diversity in their incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and start-ups. In Iowa, the tech community has launched several diversity initiatives. But Ini Augustine, president of the Iowa Black Business Coalition, said these haven’t effectively addressed the needs of African-Americans in the state.
She blamed this disconnect on a tendency among tech organizations, social researchers, and academics to hand down solutions rather than engaging directly with people in disadvantaged communities.
“It’s hard to formulate a solution to a problem when you don’t include the people you’re trying to help,” Augustine said.
As a member of the Fairfield CoLab board, I’ve seen firsthand how homogeneous a space can become when you don’t actively work toward recruiting a wide range of members. The CoLab’s membership represents a diverse age range, but the majority of members who use the space day-to-day tend to be white males. All of them are model co-workers and valuable participants in our community.