Hillary Clinton has unveiled her comprehensive technology and innovation agenda — a roadmap to the future economy that addresses many of the core issues facing the American public and in particular, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The plan outlines how we, as a nation, can empower the next generation of entrepreneurs with the education, resources and access to infrastructure to excel regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
The high-tech industry in the United States continues to experience phenomenal growth. It asserts a major role in maintaining U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. Yet, we face some headwinds — talent that wows the world with our innovative products is in a dangerously short supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 we will need to fill 1.4 million computer science jobs in America. But there will be only 400,000 graduates available to fill them. Bridging access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) needs to be a key priority if the U.S. were to lead the world as an innovation powerhouse.
Education is a top priority for the AAPI community: almost half of Asian-American voters ranked education as an extremely important issue for them in this election cycle. In her tech agenda, Hillary takes on the STEM challenge head on: she has called for bold investments in STEM education, including computer science education in all K-12 public schools and training and recruiting 50,000 computer science teachers across the nation.
Entrepreneurship and its transformative power transcends race. Yet, a lack of access to knowledge, skills and tools puts under-represented communities at a disadvantage. As an Asian American leader in tech, I don't need to look far to witness the lack of diversity: only one in three tech workers represent minorities and women account for just 36 percent of tech workers compared to 48 percent in the overall private industry. Asian Americans make up 14 percent, followed by Hispanics (8 percent) and African Americans (7 percent). Gender and racial disparities get amplified at the executive level. Asian Americans make up only 11 percent of those in executive positions at tech companies.
Hillary makes a clear commitment to diversify the STEM pipeline — to ensure talent in every community has a fair shot at building productive careers in tech. She would welcome the world's brightest to our tech economy. As part of the comprehensive immigration reform, Hillary has pledged to "staple" a green card to STEM masters and Ph.Ds, and support visas that allow top entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the U.S., launch ventures, and create 21st century jobs.
Hillary's agenda — informed by an understanding of the disruptive nature of technology — lays the groundwork for the inevitable next-generation technologies that will transform the way we communicate. Closing the digital divide by pledging high-speed network across the country — which disproportionately affects communities of color, including AAPIs — would help many underprivileged Asian Americans contribute to the nation's economy to their full potential.
Hillary's plan for meeting the challenge of ensuring our continued leadership in tech and breaking down barriers for people of color is ambitious—but at the same time practical and achievable. She has charted a laser-focused roadmap with some of the most informed policies—from cybersecurity to broadband access. The future economy that Hillary envisions for our country is one that I — and many in the AAPI community — can stand behind proudly.
Dilawar Syed is President of Freshdesk and a member of the Hillary for America Asian American and Pacific Islander Leadership Council.