Eight Initiatives Run by Women of Color That Are Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in Tech by Carol Benovic

Eight Initiatives Run by Women of Color That Are Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in Tech by Carol Benovic

Diversity and inclusion have found their way into tech lexicon, and into Slack groups, task forces, and think pieces. I’ve found myself at the center of many of these, and always come away wanting more. Wanting to make an impact beyond a single conversation, wanting to connect with more people, wanting to learn more about how to build more diverse companies for tomorrow… while also navigating the tech world today. I’m happy to share good news on all of these fronts.

There’s a rising group of women of color that are providing resources to help companies make better decisions when it comes to diversity and inclusion. They’re also making tech more accessible, by teaching technical skills and elevating the non-technical roles that are needed but not often heard about. They’re channeling their experiences in tech into learning experiences for all of us.

The organizations and initiatives of a few of these women are listed below. I’m excited to learn from them, try their recommendations, and help shape a more diverse and inclusive industry. Here’s how you can, too:

#WOCInTechChat @wocintechchat

Founded by Stephanie Morillo and Christina Morillo in June 2015, #WOCInTechChat started off as a Twitter Chat where women and non-binary people of color could connect and discuss issues in the tech industry that are important to them. They’ve led conversations about security and privacy, running a side gig, and pushing through the glass ceiling.

Personally, this was the first Twitter chat I’ve participated in that had me eager to rush home from work, prop my feet up, and get to tweeting. All of the participants are supportive, helpful, and knowledgeable. The chat is a great resource for people just getting started with their tech careers or those who have been at it for years.

In addition to leading the chat, the group has sponsored members to attend conferences and shared a highly useful collection of stock images that challenges the misconception that tech is only populated by white dudes in tee-shirts standing over foosball tables. Instead, they depict the reality that women of color are powerful and present in tech.

You can support #WOCInTechChat by making a cash contribution, using and crediting their fantastic library of stock images, or by snagging some swag from their online shop.

digitalundivided @DigUnDiv

digitalundivided’s mission is to connect Black and Latina women entrepreneurs with investors, mentors, and influencers, develop their leadership skills, and support the entrepreneurship journey at every stage. DID also runs the BIG accelerator, a program for Black and Latina women founders that provides training on startup methodologies, and access to mentors, office space, an alumni network, and seed funding.

In February 2016, DID released an independent study about the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship in the US. The study found that despite generating over $44 billion in yearly revenue, Black women startup founders have only actually received 0.2% of venture funding over the past three years. As someone who helps entrepreneurs, artists, and technologists bring their ideas to life, these numbers disappointed me… but it’s also empowering to hear about the 11 members of the $1MM Club (DID identified only 11 startups led by Black women that have raised at least one million dollars) that are leading incredible companies despite these odds. It also makes me want to be number 12. You can read more about the study here or support it by buying a copy.

DID was founded by Kathryn Finney, who is also a General Partner at the Harriet Fund, the first venture fund focused on investing in high-potential Black and Latina women-led startups and the co-founder of the Harriet Angels Syndicate, focused on investing in exceptional Black and Latina women founders.

Good for POC @goodforpoc

Good for POC is a thoughtfully curated list of companies providing an inclusive and safe work environment for people of color. This project was started by three friends that were tired of hearing workplace horror stories and instead, wanted to elevate companies that are good for people of color to work at: Amélie Lamont, Catt Small and Jacky Alciné.

How do companies get added to the list? People of color are welcome to fill out this survey about their workplace and their experience in tech. Responses to the survey have helped to populate the list with twenty companies and counting, and a summary of the data is available in this infographic. Look over the list of top diversity and inclusion efforts that respondents said made an impact: chances are you have an employee that has expressed interest in one of them, like starting an internal advocacy group, or volunteering at a coding bootcamp. I am one such employee, and with the help of colleagues and senior management, I’ve been able to contribute to initiatives that will have a lasting impact. When operated with empathy and sincerity, mentorship, trainings, and a transparent work culture do make a difference. The insights shared by Good for POC prove it. Volunteer your time or donate to keep this much-needed project going.

POCiT (People of Color in Tech) @pocintech

Founded by Ruth Mesfun and Michael Behrane, POCiT elevates the stories and achievements of people of color working in the startup and tech spheres. And they’re covering way more than the latest app or acquisition news: POCiT’s website hosts dozens of interviews with leaders of today and tomorrow. The stories serve as a reminder that people of color aren’t just holding down day jobs in tech, they’re challenging the status quo. There are over sixty interviews on POCiT so far, and each one shares a unique story and earnest advice. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from recent interviews:

“Always stay hopeful and always make your decisions based on hope rather than fear,” Nafisa Bakkar, CEO and co-founder of Amaliah.

“No. We will not let fate take control. You have to take control of your career and what you want,” Ariel Lopez, Founder of 20/20 Shift.

“I view the fact that I am black, and a woman as an asset to me as I hold a unique perspective rarely seen in the industry,” Amanda Spann, Co-Founder of tiphub Africa.

You can submit ideas for articles to POCiT here, or support their efforts with a cash donation.

20/20 Shift @2020Shift

Seeing that minority representation was a problem in the tech industry, career coach and entrepreneur Ariel Lopez started 20/20 Shift to help change that narrative. Her organization aims to teach #MoreThanCode, offering short form classes, workshops, and part-time intensive courses with concentrations in content strategy, product design, agile project management, and more. They also offer training and workshops to help employers understand how they can attract, recruit, and retain a diverse workforce.

Why is this work important to 20/20 Shift? As Lopez states on the organization’s website, “diverse environments ensure that the most innovative products can be made and they will reflect the consumers that use them.” Well-said. As a writer that works for an internet-based company, I love that 20/20 Shift is shedding light on the fact that there’s more to tech than being an engineer. Employers and skill seekers can learn more about 20/20 Shift’s offerings here.

Code2040 @CODE2040

CODE2040 is an organization driven by an inspirational vision. By the year 2040, they’re aiming to help foster a nation that is more equitable, innovative, and prosperous because “contributions of communities of color are sought out and included within the innovation economy.” Their fellows program places Black and Latino/a college-level computer science students in a summer career accelerator, their technical applicant prep program equips young professionals with the confidence and connections to land jobs in the tech industry, and their residence program helps entrepreneurs launch a company over the course of a year.

According to this 2015 report released by CODE2040, the programming is working: Fellows found a reliable community in their peers, figured out how to navigate the tech landscape, and received a much-deserved boost in confidence. Founded by Laura Weidman Powers and Tristan Walker, the pair aspired to build a sustainable pipeline of diverse talent to tech companies, not just to make companies more diverse today, but to ensure that this is part of our forward-thinking.

How can you help Code2040 make their vision a reality? Donate to support their efforts or volunteer to share your expertise with some of their students.

Black Girls CODE @BlackGirlsCode

Inspired by her own education in STEM, Kimberly Bryant started Black Girls CODE in 2011 with the hope of providing young girls of color with opportunities to learn skills in technology and computer programming. Under the empowering motto “Imagine. Build. Create,” the organization sets up community level workshops and after-school programs that teach girls basic programming skills in languages like Scratch and Ruby on Rails. Their students learn to build webpages, robots, and more.

Considering my introduction to a computer was Oregon Trail, it’s great to see that young girls of color are being taught skills that they can use to create their own computer games and programs. Black Girls CODE is bridging us to a future where Black women are not just represented in tech, but where we have Black women as lead characters in video games, more Black women Computer Science teachers, and more Black women sharing these same skills with their children and neighbors. According to a recent interview, Black Girls CODE currently has 13 chapters and its programming has reached thousands of students. You can support their initiatives by donating or volunteering.

TransTech Social Enterprises @TransTechSocial

Founded in 2014 by Angelica Ross, TransTech Social Enterprises is an incubator for LGBTQ talent, with a focus on economically empowering transgender people. Members of the TransTech community have lended their skills in graphic design, web development, social media management, and more to vital work on paid projects. In working together and developing excellent portfolios, they’re also creating invaluable connections with one another. You can support these efforts by donating, or by hiring TransTech!

TransTech has also partnered with the Human Rights Campaign to direct “Let’s Talk About the T,” a series of videos with real talk from transgender people about their lives and experiences. I’d recommend starting with this conversation that focuses on allyship within the LGBTQ community. AND Angelica is also an actress in the Emmy Award-nominated Her Story, a series that explores how two trans women navigate love, labels, identity and Los Angeles. It’s inspiring to see Angelica sharing her experience as a trans woman by creating opportunities for others in the trans community and programming that’s accessible to everyone.

My list ends here, but what matters most is what you do next. If you’re moved by the work these women are doing, support their initiatives, spread the word, and create positive change for someone, too.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a fun, easy way to support diversity in tech on an ongoing basis? Fund Club, our joint project with AlterConf, has raised over $130,000 for diversity in tech initiatives since launch, including many of those on this list! Join us!


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