For the world, the death of George Floyd was heart wrenching. It was a stark and personal reminder of the vulnerability of Black people, who have for too long and too often as a collective been at the wrong end of police injustice.
In many ways his last words of ‘I can’t breathe’ encouraged a new sense of bravery in the world at large. No longer were folks across society silent. Individuals found courage to call out the harmful ideologies and structures that allow people in tech to see racism as an accepted part of our industry.
The evidence is plain: from unequal pay, hostile work environments and barriers to promotion, the tech industry has a long way to go towards a fair future.
In the aftermath of his death, many companies in the tech industry started campaigns for change and issued statements in solidarity with Black voices. Now two years on, is the industry still as energised?
In our recent survey with Meta, we conducted an in-depth research project with almost 2,000 Black students and professionals to find out how they’re REALLY finding things. On the whole 60% of Black professionals encounter barriers to entering their tech profession with 30% of those interviewed saying they can’t and don’t want to be their true selves at work!
In a study by Inside Voices, an overwhelming 75% of people of colour (POC) felt that their company’s leadership does not care about issues that specifically affect POC, compared with 64% of white people. Leaders, boards and shareholders in the tech industry must understand that change needs to be authentic at all levels of the business.
It’s clear the big companies have a lot of work to do for their employees… is the startup space any better?
Sadly not, ! Last year just 1.3% of venture capital funding was distributed to minority founders 👎🏾
It can be exhausting looking at statistics that constantly reinforce the fact that Black people are treated inequitably in the tech sector but the truth is clear in the data, and needs to be spoken to spark action.
So what can be done about it?
Out of strife and sadness we have sought opportunities to make a tangible difference to equity in our industry. In the last two years we have been relentlessly focused on creating opportunities, and training programmes that have helped and mobilise members of our community into the industry.
OUR PROGRAMME SUMMARY OVER THE PAST 2 YEARS:
NXTGen (early careers):
- Over 3,000 people have gone through our NXTGen programmes and training in the past 2 years for people from underrepresented communities aged 16-25 yrs.
- Alumni have gone on to work for top companies including Arm, eBay, Samsung and more.
Advance (mid-senior tech professionals):
- Over 1,000 people have gone through our ‘Advance’ programmes and training for people from underrepresented communities with more than 2 years experience in tech
- Alumni have gone on to work for, Google, Farfetch, Meta and more
Rise (startup founders):
- We’ve supported over 50 entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds over the past 2 years.
- Founders have gone on to raise over $8M in various funding rounds.
It’s great we’ve been able to contribute to providing opportunities for founders from underrepresented backgrounds but a number of our partners have made impressive strides to ensure the diversity drive is a permanent agenda point.
Silicon Valley Bank has been a powerful force in the investment scene for decades. They are an active supporter of our Rise program and have consistently maintained their focus on assisting founders from underrepresented backgrounds spinning up new teams and structures to do so.
Similarly, Salesforce, a cloud-based customer relationship company, remains committed to their Boldforce leadership group to use their voice internally and externally to drive the wider org to consider equity across all walks of business.
When the team at Microsoft’s Venture Arm didn't know what to do, they took their hands out of their pocket to drive grassroots organisations and looked to support organisations like ourselves both financially but also in their time and accessibility.
For many people and institutions, the space for silence and excuse no longer exists. For orgs, where they still aren’t doing the internal or external work required for an equitable society, they probably never will. For people who turn a blind eye, posted their black square and have moved on, their enthusiasm for the “trend” has gone”. For those who did commit the hardest work is still to come. It wasn’t getting going, but in time of recession, strife, and difficulty, will equity be the thing parked, scrapped or the nice to have. We’ve worked hard to show the industry there is a way, and other brilliant initiatives exist too. We’ll stay focused on, what is really important. Today we note the tech industry said that ‘Black Lives Matter’. We say...prove it!