The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Tech and film leaders focus on diversity at SXSW Festival

By Kendra Wilkerson/@kendrasatx

Speakers and presenters at the recent South by Southwest Interactive Festival wove diversity into keynote speeches, presentations and workshops.

American politicians, award winning film directors, popular bloggers, film television presidents, royalty and social media gurus say diversity is important within the tech and film industries at this year’s South by Southwest.

Austin’s SXSW has emerged as a premiere technology and entertainment festival. Annually, industry experts and aspirants participate in conferences, workshops and presentations to draw attention to various industry topics.

“We know that Hispanics are heavy users of technology…everything from computers to gaming,” said former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who gave a presentation about the future of viewing television and film at SXSW. “It’s great to see that more of them are going into the actual field and becoming employed in technology.”

Julian Castro’s SA2020 community vision plans for job growth in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)  industries. Jobs in the STEM industries have a lower unemployment rate and pay 26 percent higher than job in other industries.

So, are other San Antonio people and organizations preparing minorities for jobs in this field?

San Antonio Lifestyle blogger Melanie Mendez-Gonzales says “yes.”

Mendez-Gonzales, who attended SXSW to give a presentation titled “How Latina Mothers are Raising the Next Generation of Coders,” spoke about the educational tools children can use to learn coding.

“I wish to give my kids the opportunity to be a creator of technology, not just a user of it,” Mendez-Gonzales said. “And I don’t want it just for my kids, but for as many students as I can reach who desire to learn.”

Mendez-Gonzales exposes her children to the San Antonio STEM Connectory, a nonprofit advocacy group that advances understanding in science, technology, engineering and math.

“In order to get them to learn to code and create, I must have them involved in STEM programs early on,” Mendez-Gonzales said about involving her children in programs that prepare them for the future.

San Antonio STEM Connectory increases diversity in the STEM industry by preparing economically disadvantaged students for STEM careers in San Antonio.

The group aims to create the next generation of local STEM talent by charging low-income  schools a discounted rate and awarding summer camp scholarships to 87 percent of the students who attend the student camp with the San Antonio STEM Connectory group.

One way group members provide STEM experiences is through GEEKBUS, a high-tech mobile makerspace loaded with 3D printers, robotics, electronics that travels to schools giving students hands-on experience.

According to the 2014 impact report, GEEKBUS programs engaged a total of 13,165 community members. Of those students, 58 percent are female and 78 percent economically disadvantaged.

For some leaders, increasing diversity starts at the executive level.

Steve Mosko, president of Sony Television and is part of the company’s diversity program, said “diversity only works if you do it from the ground up.”

“You know it’s a tricky one,” he said about implementing diversity during a panel discussing the future of viewing television and film.

“What ends up happening is when the conversation turns to…the lack of diversity, people start trotting out a couple of people and say ‘no look, we’re diverse and here is who works for us.”

“You’ve got to have diversity within your executives,” Mosko said. “You’ve got to have diverse culture behind the scenes. It only works in front of the screen when you have the writers and directors, and the diversity program involved in every part.”

“For diversity to work its got to start with me,” Mosko offered.

Many of the presenters and SXSW agree that diversity is important for the future of the technology and film industries. Leading experts in tech and film agree increasing diversity is still a hurdle to overcome and a major industry agenda.

About the Author

Kendra Wilkerson
Kendra Wilkerson is a staff writer for The Mesquite. Kendra is a communications senior and a member of The National Society of Leadership and the Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity. Recently, she contributed to the student news organization at Palo Alto College. Kendra enjoys art, with a love for classical music and fashion. After graduation, Kendra plans to pursue her passion in public relations in the media and entertainment industry.

Join the Conversation

© 2024 Jaguar Student Media | Texas A&M University-San Antonio. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved.
San Antonio Website Design & Development - Backyard Studios
Join Our Newsletter

Get the Mesquite News delivered straight to you.