Recently, the Fast Company published an article called, “There are now fewer black women in tech than there were ten years ago” that looked like a follow up to a previous article; The Tech Industry’s Missed Opportunity: Funding Black Women Founders. I must admit, the more recent headline, got my attention, and when I read it, the content brought about the sudden urge to address the issue.
In the last 12 months, there has been the steady rise of the hashtag #WomenInTech. Trending and making strides and changes, it showed support among women celebrating significant career progress within the male-dominated industry of technology. I never imagined that, alongside the milestones, a type of hierarchy was being woven into the core fabric of the women in tech movement.
According to Denise Peck, coauthor of a new report from the Ascend Foundation, “Minority women continue to bump against a double-paned glass ceiling.” Her results are based on the available data from the EEOC to assess the leadership pipeline at hundreds of Bay Area technology companies, including Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Twitter, Yelp, and others. The data confirmed that developing women leaders do not address the distinct challenges faced by Asian, Hispanic, or black women. In the report, Peck concluded, “We saw progress made by white women, so we know tech companies can change. Now it’s time to do the same for minority men and women.”
“We saw progress made by white women, so we know tech companies can change. Now it’s time to do the same for minority men and women.”
Peck’s findings have led me to believe that maybe women in tech-focused groups like ‘Women in Technology‘ or ‘Women of Wearables‘ subconsciously represent only white women. Ok maybe I am playing devils advocate here, but if one was to refer to the report’s finding, white women are substantially more successful in reaching the executive level than ALL minority men or women. That does not mean that support for women in tech is not needed. White men are still 47% more likely than white women to be executives, so these groups somewhat play a key role in leveling out the playing field.
To continue, according to Harvard Business Review’s piece, written by Wendy DuBow and Allison-Scott Pruitt, most women-led businesses have been funded by the founder herself, or by friends and family. Although female-led firms may have a higher rate of return on average than male-led firms, businesses that are receiving VC funding tend to be founded and led by white and Asian men. Also, fewer than 5% of all VC-funded firms have women on their executive teams, and only 2.7% have a female CEO. Shocking? Well there is more. Although Black women’s startup ownership is the fastest growing among all women, it has been well documented that women of colour hardly receive any VC funding. In 2015 only a mere 0.2% of VC funding went to firms founded by women of colour.
When it comes to addressing funding discrepancy between male and female founders, Harvard Review stated that one of the reasons could be that there are less female partners at VC firms, therefore, they are less likely to invest in female-founded or female-led firms. Also, they stated that maybe women are simply not seeking VC funding. So how can we turn this around? How can we help to change the narrative for female founders and black women in tech? Well, one of the responses has been the growth of black women in tech-focused groups like Black Tech Women and Black Women in STEM. I personally think that the need for these ‘sub-groups’ mainly stems from the Women In Tech movement coming across like it pays little attention to supporting women of colour. That is not to say that non-white women need special attention, it is just in general, women need to support each other because as Madeleine Albright put it, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”
So moving forward let’s take a moment to acknowledge black women who are continually working hard to create, innovate, challenge, and move the world of technology. Be inspired by Janett Liriano of LOOMIA, Maddy Maxey, also of LOOMIA, Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO Black Girls CODE: Black Girls CODE, Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO TaskRabbit, Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi, Safiya Miller, Microsoft Account Executive and Aniyia Williams of Tinsel to name just a few.