August 20, 2023

What the End of Affirmative Action Could Mean for the Future of Computing and Tech

The end of affirmative action

CMD-IT creates and delivers innovative programs, events, education and research that advance diversity in computing.  Some of CMD-IT programs include the Tapia Conference, the LEAP Alliance and the Academic Careers Workshops.  A recent Supreme Court ruling has brought significant implications for the future of diversity and inclusion efforts in higher education.

Outcomes of SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC

In the ruling on Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard University and SFFA v.University of North Carolina, the court stated that colleges and universities cannot issue race-conscious admissions policies to increase campus diversity, considering it unnecessary and unconstitutional. This historic decision effectively ends race-conscious admissions programs at colleges and universities across the United States. In a decision that divided along ideological lines, the conservative supermajority invalidated admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, reversing decades of precedent and ending the ability of colleges and universities to consider race as one of many factors in their admissions process. The Supreme Court’s decision has raised questions about the future of affirmative action policies, which have been a crucial tool in promoting diversity in education and the workplace. 

The Impact of the Ruling

As affirmative action policies face new scrutiny, it becomes essential to consider the potential impact on various sectors, starting with K-12 and higher education. Affirmative action has historically played a role in increasing the representation of underrepresented communities in these institutions, and this shift will make it more challenging for underrepresented communities to access and complete their education. Additionally, the absence of affirmative action programs could hinder progress in building a diverse pipeline of talent for the tech industry.

Beyond education, the tech world itself will likely feel the effects of this ruling. In the realm of overall tech development, areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science, and other emerging technologies may face challenges in building diverse teams. A lack of diversity in the tech workforce can lead to biased algorithms and products that do not cater to a broader range of users. This has implications not only for innovation but also for ethical considerations in tech.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at computing and tech companies could also be affected. The removal of affirmative action could make it harder to create a diverse workforce, impacting the representation of minority groups in tech companies. However, this is not the time to give up on diversity efforts but instead be creative by using alternative factors. One example is the innovative approach taken by the University of California, Davis Medical School, which uses Adversity Indicators to identify students who have overcome significant hardships and demonstrate potential, as showcased in a recent New York Times article. 

Creating Opportunities

Despite the challenges presented by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, CMD-IT remains committed to creating opportunities for students within our target communities. Venues like Tapia are crucial in promoting inclusion in tech and computing fields, providing a platform for underrepresented individuals to network, learn, and advance in the tech field, serving as beacons of hope during uncertain times.