February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of those of Black heritage, while also recognizing the systemic racism that still exists in many of our public and private institutions. This time of year should serve to further embolden people and organizations to work toward purposeful change, including those companies that are making a commitment to hiring based on diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) goals.
Black Americans make up approximately 12.5% of the national population. Yet, Black professionals are underrepresented in many industries, including the tech space. According to our latest research, while some regions are doing better than others, overall, we have a long way to go.
Some of our key findings on the Black American tech workforce include:
- Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Washington DC, and Miami lead in employing those of Black heritage
- Compared to their local working population, all 36 cities featured in the report under-represent their Black population
Meaningful change starts with education
We believe that there are several key reasons that are contributing to this lack of representation. We have the obvious historical origins rooted in slavery. Yet today, despite the civil rights movement that has further advanced racial equality, systemic inequities and racism continue to play a pivotal role for Black Americans in areas ranging from education to housing and employment.
For instance, according to the National School Boards Association and the National Center for Education Statistics’s report on The Condition of Education 2020, 32% of Black students grew up in poverty. Additionally, only 27% live in a household where a parent has a Bachelor’s degree or higher (compared to 69% of Asian and 53% of White students), and 45% of Black students attended high-poverty schools. Further compounding the situation – especially as it relates to the lack of representation of Black American talent in the tech workforce – is low enrollment for an undergraduate degree. In fact, between 2009 and 2019, the number of Black college students decreased by 17%.
To make meaningful change and achieve true diversity in the workforce, we need to look beyond government mandates and corporate hiring policies. We need to start at the supply root, and in the world of technology, this starts with education. More companies – particularly technology companies – should be partnering with local schools to help remove the barriers of poverty and inequality created by limited access to quality schools, teachers, and resources – and provide greater access to education in STEM disciplines.
In Canada, school districts are consistent in what and how subjects (like mathematics, which is foundational knowledge for tech workers) are taught. Educational poverty barriers (like those in the U.S.) do not exist in the Canadian school system, resulting in 53% of Canadians attending college (compared to 38% in the U.S.). Additionally, many Canadian colleges have a co-op program where students can work for a company while still in school, so they are able to advance their career with valuable, on-the-job experience. Bottom line: the Canadian education system is set up to enable a more diverse workforce, and provides a critical step to enabling true inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
Want to know which regions you should consider for expansion in order to design an organization with meaningful diversity? Download our latest research: Best Cities for Diversity in the Tech Workforce.