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Representation of People of Color in the Tech Industry Starts at the Top

Over the last several months, there has been a rise in research, protests, and critical moves to ensure POC (People of Color) have equity and equality. TrustRadius published an academic research report on the representation of POC in the Technology Industry.  

In the course of the past ten years, the technology industry has changed at an accelerated rate. Our phones are more intelligent, our computers run at higher speeds, and our application libraries are endless. The industry itself has developed into a more POC friendly place but there’s still room for some serious work. The good news is TrustRadius reported that 65% of POC in tech had seen an increase in diversity over the past ten years. The bad news is, despite recent increases, Black, Latine, and Native tech professionals make up less than 5% of the workforce at major tech companies. The report also found 81% of white respondents reported never having work issues due to their race or ethnicity, 43% of POC reported they have.  

One respondent from the Trustradius report stated, “The biggest challenge for POC in tech right now is the lack of representation and leadership that reflects us. I’ve worked within the industry for 11 years and have had two black co-workers who were on a related team and zero black co-workers who worked on my team. Thinking about IT or extended tech teams, I’ve worked with a total of five black males and one black female.”  

Unsurprisingly most of the technology jobs are held in major cities across the United States. These cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles also have some of the most racially diverse populations. According to Black Wallet, Atlanta is the most livable Black city in the US.  

The United States Technology Field reported out of the 12 million people in leadership positions in tech, less than a quarter of them identify as POC. To see a dramatic change, leadership will need to spearhead the effort. Since there are no laws governing representation, corporations are responsible for demonstrating and acting upon equity and equality. It is up to company leadership to decide to make their workplace diverse and inclusive. Seeing a community that represents them will help POC feel more included and capable of promotion and personal growth within a company. However, while equity, inclusivity, and diversity are essential at all levels, having the opportunity to ascend to the corporate level requires jumping through hurdles laden with inequality.  

Even though diversity and inclusion make headlines, research by Morgan Stanley shows three out of five Venture Capital firms say investing in diverse entrepreneurs is not a top priority for their firms. The study also finds VC firms themselves tend to be less diverse, with fewer women and POC. 

Achieving success in the technology industry for anyone starts with exposure and opportunity. To be successful in the technology industry, a POC must have access to the education and networks to help them develop their skills. Organizations such as Code2College and Black Girls Code are vital stepping-stones in bridging the equity gap. Matt Stephenson, the CEO and Founder of Code2College says, “The mission of Code2College is to dramatically increase the number of minority and low-income high school students who enter and excel in STEM undergraduate majors and careers. By providing youth employment opportunities to those in Code2College, students are given a chance to begin professional development from an early age.” 

To work toward equal representation of race throughout the technology industry leaders need to be aware of unconscious biases throughout the employee lifecycle. Reviewing the recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and promoting practices with an eye toward diversity and inclusion will help create a more inclusive work environment for all employees. 

Incorporating diversity and inclusion into the corporate mindset is an ongoing process. There’s no quick fix. Through conscious thought, training, and support, leaders can ensure all their employees have the same opportunities to flourish.  

For the full 2020 TrustRadius report on People of Color in Tech click here. 

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