A black female founder suggests ways entrepreneurs can help make space for more diversity in the tech world. By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)
Men may make up a disproportionate percentage of the tech community, but women aren't vanishingly rare. Black women in tech, however, "are perceived as 'unicorns,'" according to one CEO quoted recently on Inc.com.
"Although we exist, and there are more of us than ever before, I think that we're not seen because it's a perception problem," Sian Morson, the CEO and founder of Kollective Mobile, explains in the article written by Lisa Nicole Bell, founder and CEO of Inspired Life Media Group.
Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls CODE, agrees that the low media profile of black woman technologists can make it appear as if they're extremely rare and elusive creatures. "We have to let folks know we are in the room," she says.
The articles goes on to lay out a multi-pronged attack plan to make tech more representative of the diversity of the population at large, including familiar but important initiatives like encouraging young girls to get involved in tech, mentoring, and increasing the visibility of black women's contributions. For anyone concerned about the issues, it's well worth a read in full.
But if you're a founder, it also offers three actionable ideas for how you can use your position to make tech a more inclusive and welcoming community. These actions don't require social change, collective action or large-scale initiatives (those are all certainly good things in this case); these are things under your control that you could get started on today:
Make diversity a priority, not a buzz word. The Center for American Progress notes that businesses that recruit from a diverse workforce are better able to find the best and the brightest talent needed to compete in an increasingly competitive economy. As businesses integrate a blend of various experiences and backgrounds, they yield the creativity necessary for competing in a global economy. Inclusion is not just a word to toss around in an annual report; it's a way of doing business that produces tangible benefits.
Avoid classifications based solely on race or gender. It's important to avoid creating an environment that singles black women out as "the only." Instead, they, like other team members, should be acknowledged and rewarded based on the company's performance standards.
Support organizations that contribute to the growing presence of black women in tech. Organizations like Black Girls CODE, NewMe Accelerator, and CODE2040 are providing opportunities for black women (and men, too!) of varying ages to fulfill their potential as future tech leaders. From volunteering your time as a mentor to sponsoring events, there are many ways to contribute.
Check out the complete post for more details on these suggestions.
Women 2.0 readers: What else could be done to make tech more inclusive of women from more diverse backgrounds?
Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.