It’s no secret that Black women are underrepresented in tech. According to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, of the 25% of women working in tech, only 3% identify as Black. On its own, this number is shocking. But when you take into consideration that STEM is the fastest growing industry in North America, this number becomes unsettling.
Black women experience the tech industry differently from women of other races, and everyone as a whole. They face unique biases and hurdles that can stifle their growth and deter others from entering the industry altogether. They face biased hiring processes, limited connections, and other barriers to entry. When Black women do land a job in the industry, they earn lower salaries, their contributions are rarely acknowledged and celebrated, and their growth is often stifled. It’s safe to say, tech is an uphill battle for Black women.
However, these challenges have not stopped Black women from making history and shining in tech. From Katherine Johnson, who worked as a human-computer for NASA at the height of segregation, to Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer who founded Black Girls Code, countless Black women have been pioneers and way-makers in the industry. They are beating the odds and proving that they can be just as successful as the next person. Here are some of the ways that Black women are building legacies by shaping the future of tech!
Building their own Communities
Because the number of Black women in tech is so low, those who are in these spaces find there are very few people they can actually relate to. They walk into office buildings and struggle to make connections because of limited similarities and shared life experiences. On top of this, there are mixed feelings about what Black women need to do to succeed in tech. Some people feel that Black women need to ‘fit in’ and try to conform to what everyone else is doing. Others feel that Black women should stand out and own their space. Black women report having their mentors tell them to ‘dim their light’ so as to not make other people uncomfortable.
All of these confusing sentiments can make it harder for Black women to feel like they have a place in tech. This has created the need for external communities within the tech space where Black women can find peers and build authentic connections. Organizations like Black Girls in Tech and digitalundivided are doing just that. Founded by Black women for Black women, they are providing the avenues for Black women in tech to connect amongst each other to create the communities that they would not otherwise have. And the Black women behind them are making history by showing that with melanin, anything is possible.
Platforms like Obsidi also provide Black women in tech the opportunity to network with their fellow Black peers to create meaningful professional relationships. Through Obsidi, Black women can build connections with like-minded people to help define and progress their careers. With the help of countless resources, Black women on Obsidi are finding a greater sense of belonging within the industry through their new connections and communities. So, although tech companies may not be teeming with communities that Black women can feel a part of, Black women are continuing to shape the future of tech by creating and being part of the platforms that they need to support one another and feel a sense of sisterhood and community.
Influencing the Tech World
Technology has always been about the people more than it has been about the actual machines. In order for technology to be effective, the people whose lives it will impact need to be part of the decision-making process. It has never made sense that people in board rooms make decisions about tech that affects millions of people but fail to demographically represent them.
This is where Black women have had to step outside of the box to revolutionize tech for themselves. Through ingenuity, hard work, determination, and some #BlackGirlMagic, Black women are slowly but surely working their way up the tech ladder to land positions where they can be recognized, and effect change that positively impacts the Black community. You can read about the success stories of 5 Black women who are stamping their names on the tech space here.
Mentoring Other Black Women
One common trait about successful people is that they all seem to have mentors. Mentors are important because they provide younger professionals with the necessary support, guidance, and access to opportunities that they need to overcome the challenges in their careers. The beauty of mentoring for Black women is seeing that it is possible to go higher than where they are. By sharing their wealth of knowledge, Black women are building legacies and ensuring that the future of tech will continue to have strong and confident Black women.
Obsid by BPTN’s membership program, CULTIVATE, provides successful Black women with the perfect opportunity to mentor Black early career professionals to give them the knowledge and insight that they need to thrive in tech. On the flip side, Black women who are mid-career professionals can access sponsors and mentors on the platform to get them through to executive roles ensuring a more inclusive and representative future for STEM.
All in all, Black women have the experiences and expertise that can change the tech world for good. They’re confident, savvy, and they’re inspiring millions of other Black girls and women who want to make a name for themselves in tech. If the tech industry is looking for a source of ground-breaking innovation, which it is, then it needs to look no further than the Black women who are making history and building legacies!