Tech Industry: Only 5% Black?

Did you know that less than 5% of our African American population makes up the technology industry’s workforce in Silicon Valley and as low as 1% occupies executive positions in the industry? Where are the black people in technology? The Margins shares what they believe the issue is: “It’s not just a lack of representation that’s a problem, black entrepreneurs face serious problems in their professional careers that their white counterparts do not. Most important is securing funding for their business idea.” My question is, how can we get more black people into the field? What sets us apart from other races?

Academic background, being a minority, lack of investment from venture capitalists and banks, social class, and connections, limitations in the education field, and low income are just some of the issues that we black folks face. Corey Thomas of Rapid7 (one of the few African American CEOs in the US) states that “The tech industry, to some extent, lives in a ‘bubble’ made up of graduates from elite universities like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. He believes the unwillingness to look for people from other backgrounds contributes greatly to why there are so few African-Americans in the tech industry.”

Freada Kapor Klein, a founding partner at the venture capital firm Kapor Capital, suggests that the challenge “is not one of education but of access and support.” Los Angeles Times states that several Black tech professionals agree that the industry’s reliance on personal relationships to grant access and opportunity is partly to blame, producing a network effect that militates against Black and Latino inclusion. The problem lies with acquiring venture capital funds, an origin of the tech ecosystem. Black investors make up less than 1% of venture capitalists.

Computerworld shares statistics on the reasons behind this disparity of blacks and non-whites in the tech industry. They mention such issues as discrimination, finding mentors, diversity programs, and little to no support of equality. According to the survey, people of color face discrimination at work. Respondents reported a difference in discrimination at work based on their ethnicity: of Whites, 19% reported issues due to their race or ethnicity, while 43% of people of color said they faced such issues. Moreover, respondents also said the tech industry is doing too little to address racial inequality: 67% want the tech industry to do more, 18% said the industry has been doing enough, and 15% say it’s doing too much.

How Can We Get More Black People into The Field?

The Margins stated Boston has a startup accelerator known as Smarter in the City, a Roxbury organization that helps African Americans get access to information and mentorship for their pursuits in the tech industry. This is one step to ensuring that black entrepreneurs are fueled and propelled in the right direction without discrimination. Furthermore, there are national organizations like Black Founders and Blacks in Technology advocating for more representation of black people in the tech industry and offering support to entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs, including grade school children.

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