31 Aug Diversity in Quantum Technology: Will Companies Ride the Wave or Get Swept Away?
Computers and quantum technologies are maturing out of theoretical concepts and transforming into tools that can create practical change, with the potential to solve industries’ most fundamental problems. As these challenges are solved, companies must rethink their long-standing foundations, with an urgent emphasis on diversifying the teams who are a direct reflection of the industry themselves. Teams made up of varying skill sets, races, genders, ages, and ethnicities can allow companies to engage people to begin to think outside of the box so that these industries can ride this new wave of technology, instead of
being swept away by it.
In this new era of significant advances in quantum technology and huge discoveries in quantum sciences, a diverse workforce that is highly trained in quantum physics and quantum technology is essential. But with such a unique and specialized skill set and lack of exposure in universities to this technology, the talent pool for this industry is small, creating a challenge in building diverse teams, which are severely lacking. According to a 2016 survey from EngineeringUK, women only made up 12% of engineering for any sector. Physics isn’t much better when it comes to diversity, as a 2020 article from IBM stated, “In the field of
physics, Black Americans represent only 1% of total Ph.Ds. And the number of Black students graduating with a physics Ph.D. has been decreasing since 2012.” The road to creating research and innovation for everyone, by everyone, is long, but the start maybe with universities. Early exposure is key to preparing the essential and diverse workforce.
As available funding, university efforts, and general attention shift to training a quantum workforce, it would be easier and more effective to make a purposeful effort to be more inclusive of minorities in this movement. Already this process is occurring with successful results. As of September 2020, IBM launched the IMBHBCU Quantum Center. In pairing with 23 historically black colleges and universities, IBM is able to offer better research, funding, educational support and hardware access. This partnership leads to more exposure to quantum technology, as well as better mentorship and support to specific minorities. Other companies are using conferences and curriculums to encourage minorities to participate in quantum science while tackling the biases created that often exclude certain types of individuals from participating in the space.
By recognizing and nurturing all people in the system and diversifying interactions, we will enrich our lives by creating knowledge, enabling us to understand the world around us and empowering us to tackle the many challenges we face as individuals and communities, nationally and globally. In order for these complex technologies to continue to adapt to reflect the world around us, moving into more practical roles of change-making, the teams in which they are created need to be reflective of our ever-changing world. There are places for women and minorities on these teams, but companies, universities, and those funding research, must recognize this and foster that within their culture, boardrooms and classrooms.