Congressional proclamation prioritizes a critical societal issue: Lack of women of color in tech
For the first-time ever, Congress is declaring the entire month of March the Eddie Bernice Johnson Black Women in Science and Technology Month.
The proclamation, in part, is focused on addressing the egregious underrepresentation of women of color in the tech field and in tech-enabled sectors, especially those from low-income and underserved areas.
Recent reports reveal that Black and Latina women only account for 3 percent and 1 percent respectively in the tech industry. There are myriad reasons for this, including unconscious workplace bias and lack of widespread affordable (even free) tech training in a supportive culture that addresses their particular needs, including childcare and food insecurity programs for those from low-income areas.
Another challenge is the bias that tech- trained women of color face at the entry point to tech positions: while their tech skills are on par with those who have two- and four-year college degrees, they tend to be overlooked by recruiters who tend to favor college graduates versus those from non-traditional backgrounds (without college degrees). If we are to build a more diversified workforce in tech and tech-enabled industries that prioritizes women of color, then equal consideration must be given to those who are tech skilled but who either chose not to attend college or didn’t have the resources to pursue a degree.
The tech industry needs the creativity, ingenuity, and intelligence of women of color. As we’ve seen, throughout history, they have been the catalysts behind groundbreaking discoveries in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and in many other areas and sectors. Undoubtedly, this continues today, and it uncovers a stunning truth: if the U.S. tech industry wants to remain an innovative economic driver, its leaders must more intentionally prioritize hiring, supporting, and advancing women of color.
A proclamation is a strong first step to elevate visibility of the issue. Already, in New York City, Newark, N.J., Baltimore, Md., and San Jose, Calif., local governments rallied behind this issue and designated March 12 as “Women of Color in Tech Day.”
But much more needs to be done. And the time is now: As millions of women of color seek to re-enter the workforce, and as millions more will soon graduate from high school, we must push hard to open career gateways in tech — including creating more opportunities for apprenticeships, internships and job placement services while simultaneously building supportive workplaces to ensure they advance and thrive.
It takes more than a village to activate on this mission — it will take a committed collective of leaders from public, private, and nonprofit sectors to implement solutions that break through roadblocks and dissolve barriers until we achieve equity on all levels for women of color in tech.
Bertina Ceccarelli is CEO of NPower and Yvette Clarke represents New York’s 9th District.