David Lee, tech, diversity

Diversity Expert And Author Highlights Urgent Need For Greater Black Representation In Tech Industry

Only 8% out of 9.2 million technology workers and 3% of executives in the U.S. tech industry were cited as Black, according to research.

Though technology is among the most profitable sectors globally, the industry has not shown much growth in Black Americans’ prosperity.

Only 8% out of 9.2 million technology workers and 3% of executives in the U.S. tech industry were cited as Black.

Further, it’s projected that Black households by 2030 are expected to endure a collective loss  of over $350 billion in lost wages from tech jobs. That dollar figure purportedly equals roughly one-tenth of Blacks’ overall wealth as of 2023.

The findings reveal much work needs to be done to improve areas like hiring, recruitment, retention, and providing more resources to help Black Americans close the talent gap in the multi-trillion industry.

The push is needed as 77% of Black employees are unsatisfied with their tech roles. Another hitch for minorities is costly education. For instance, with about 20% living in poverty, Blacks face limitations in accessing IT courses.

Some 51% of Black adults lack the financial resources to apply for tech jobs. The wage gap for Black individuals in tech positions is expected to rise by nearly 37% during the next seven years.

For its part, the global technology trade group CompTIA shares a different story. For instance, it reports on its website that about “8 in 10 high-tech industry workers say they are satisfied with their organization’s diversity efforts, and 44% say diversity is a high priority for their employers.” Simultaneously, “45% say the industry has lagged in promoting diversity.” It was added the industry has a “workforce overwhelmingly white and male, with fewer African Americans, women, and Hispanics than non-tech industries.”

It has been also been shown that tech companies with above-average diversity in their management teams have 19% higher innovation revenue. And those firms with a diverse workforce can boost their revenue by 2.5 times per employee.

David Lee, a chief evangelist and visionary for tech diversity, reflected why the industry needs to be more inclusive.

“The more diverse perspective a tech company has, the stronger the product it produces. Tech is used by everyone, so it should be created by a representation of everyone,” says Lee.

 The author of “The Only One in the Room: The Unwritten Rules of Being Black in Tech,” Lee is described as an influential thought leader for Black Americans in the tech industry. Lee’s book focuses on the lack of racial diversity in the field and explores ways to help change the disparity.

“The way forward for tech companies seeking to improve their attraction and retention of Black talent is to engage with the local community, from HBCUs to Black tech organizations, and connect talent departments to these pipelines, he says.

BLACK ENTERPRISE connected with Lee via email to discuss what strategies tech companies might consider in helping to boost Black representation and the diversity crisis in the industry.

BE: Why is the low representation of Black American workers and executives in the tech industry a significant problem for that community?

Lee: The underrepresentation of Black American workers and executives in the tech industry is a significant issue that can perpetuate socio-economic disparities, limit innovation, and create an environment lacking diversity of thought. And that can lead to products that not just inconvenience Black Americans but do harm. There isn’t enough exposure to young Black Americans about careers in tech. They don’t see a lot of people that look like them and not many people enjoy being the “only one in the room.”

BE:  What specific actions should tech companies be taking to hire more Black workers and executives and create effective pipelines for attracting and retaining Black talent?

Lee: Engage with HBCUs. Get a presence on the campus, sponsored boot camp weekends, and coding projects. Be intentional about expanding the talent pool hiring managers are selecting from. Work with Black professional organizations to increase the company’s exposure to Black professionals.

BE: In what ways can engaging with HBCUs and Black tech organizations be a game-changer in building a more diverse talent pool for tech companies?

Lee: HBCUs are the ultimate destination for getting access to Black talent. Establishing a strong relationship with an HBCU by having a presence on campus, creating apprenticeship programs and internships would give both the company and the students the exposure they need.

BE: How can companies hold themselves more accountable for achieving meaningful progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond just setting diversity goals?

Lee: For every carrot, there needs to be a stick. Currently, companies set goals around DEI with no consequences for not meeting those goals. I would challenge companies to put their money where their mouth is. Tie diversity goals to leadership bonus packages and incentive programs, and make it hurt when the goals aren’t met.

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