Charting a Path Towards Equal Opportunity in the Technology Industry

“Wouldn’t it be cool if your government services worked as well as Amazon and Dropbox?” U.S. CTO Megan Smith – the country’s first female CTO – put that provocative question to the audience at the beginning of her conversation with Bloomberg’s CTO Shawn Edwards last week in Washington, D.C.

There was more on the agenda than just modernizing the American government. Smith—along with members of Congress and industry executives—were at Bloomberg Government on September 16 to discuss how to increase the diversity of the tech industry – especially for African-Americans – and the role such diversification could have on improving government and the lives of all Americans.  (Shawn Edwards is an executive sponsor of Bloomberg’s Black Professional Community.)

U.S. CTO Megan Smith

An entrepreneur, engineer, and all around tech evangelist, Smith was a vice president at Google overseeing new business development before joining President Obama’s administration as CTO in the Office of Science and Technology policy.

Her role as CTO is to help the American people by harnessing the power of data, innovation, and technology. She calls the work “innovation instigation” and it falls into three buckets:

  • Modernizing the government by capacity building, upgrading systems, and teaching government employees modern programming languages
  • Bringing technical people into policy making discussions, such as that around net neutrality or open source technology
  • Helping more Americans get into technology roles, and helping Americans use innovation (like the Internet of Things) to solve social problems like poverty and social injustice

Smith shared the Obama administration’s progress in increasing access to STEM education, data driven justice, and getting more people from all backgrounds into the 600,000 open tech jobs.