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How tech companies can honor Black History Month

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Because, let’s face it, the industry can do better.

On Now Digital loves data. It’s who we are. Unfortunately, the data around diversity in the tech industry is fairly bleak. Google’s workforce is a measly 2 percent African American. At Uber, Facebook and Twitter, the number of black tech workers is somewhere around 3 percent. And, spoiler alert, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. From 2014 to 2018, the number of black employees in the coding, engineering and data science fields increased by only a half a percent.

So, yes, Black History Month is an awesome time to celebrate the pioneering accomplishments that POC have made in tech. But, it’s also a great opportunity to help create a better, more dynamic and more inclusive environment for everyone. Here are a few ideas for how tech companies can make a difference this month:

Give back to relevant nonprofits.

There are some really worthwhile nonprofits out there whose mission is to help diversify tech through education, mentoring, grants and much more. This is a quick, convenient way for your company to make an immediate impact. Here are a few you may want to consider:

Donate children’s books.

Speaking of education, if you want to help create a real paradigm shift in the industry, join the efforts out there to educate children about the plethora of opportunity for everyone. By donating picture books (to schools, community centers, shelters, etc.) that celebrate amazing things African Americans have done in STEM careers, you are showing young POC that they belong in these spaces. You’re also helping to spread the message of diversity and respect to all li’l audiences. Take a look at these fun options:

Create mentorship opportunities.

For a lot of people mentoring is a big factor in career development. In fact, 76 percent of people engaged in a formal mentoring relationship reported that it was important to their overall success. If you’re in a senior position and see an opportunity to mentor someone (from any minority), get involved. Make yourself available. Your time, expertise and personal investment can go a long way in helping to build up others in the industry. You can also see if your company can offer internship programs that aim to diversify tech.

Address your diversity and inclusion policy.

Does your company have a documented diversity and inclusion policy? And, no, this is not about equal representation or affirmative action. If you’re unclear, you’re not alone. Here’s a worrying stat: 70 percent of companies believe they are doing a great job attracting and retaining diverse talent, but only 11 percent effectively understand what diversity and inclusion mean in the workplace. In reality, your diversity and inclusion policy should be a strategy that ensures your company:

  • Understands and embraces the differences between people (including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, education level, personal skillsets and much more)

  • Has practices in place to foster collaboration, participation, respect, fair treatment, diverse leadership opportunities, innovation and more

If you’re in a leadership position, lead the charge. If not, speak to your boss or your HR department about what strategy may or may not be in place.

Support black-owned tech companies.

Tech companies often have reason to collaborate. If you need a third-party vendor to help bring your solutions to your customers or plan to hire a contractor for some extra help, research if there are any black-owned options for what you need. Supporting black tech entrepreneurs by using their services and recommending them to others is one of the best ways you can make an impact.

Of course, sometimes the most important thing you can do is the simplest. There are a lot of POC out there sharing their stories of what it’s like to be a minority in the tech industry. Just listen. Learn. Refrain from trying to drive the conversation or from relating it to any of your own experiences of overcoming a challenge. You can get started right now with this one or this.

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