Of the estimated 2,200 women-led tech startups in the United States today, only 88 are led by black women. That breaks down to a mere 4%. This is according to #ProjectDiane, a research project from digitaldivide that investigated the role black women play in technology entrepreneurship.
The study found that the average black female founder starts a tech company with just $36,000, CNN reports. Compared to the $1.3 million that failed startups raise on average, startups mostly founded by white men, it’s clear that the playing field is far from level.
From information technology, a varied field which encompasses hundreds of different jobs, to social media, the tech industry has come under fire in recent years for its lack of diversity. CNN reports that Twitter’s workforce is 4% hispanic and 2% black, and Apple’s is 8% black and 11% hispanic. Despite these findings, Apple’s board recently rejected a diversity proposal in 2016, calling it “unduly burdensome and not necessary.”
Katherine Finney, the founder of digitaldivide, said in a statement to CNN that this baseline lack of diversity does little to welcome black women into the industry.
“If black women are not getting jobs at top tech companies, that cuts off the pipeline into being a tech entrepreneur,” she said.
She also told CNN that this requires black women to be bold in their career and entrepreneurship pursuits.
“Someone in tech told me I should be OK with incremental change,” Finney said. “No one has come out and said, ‘We’re going to be ballsy and we want to disrupt inclusion.'”
However, there are other encouraging signs of change. Since 1997, the number of businesses owned by black women has increased by 322%, adding up to 1.5 million, CNN reports. During the same period, businesses owned by black men grew 93%.
The Root recently compiled a list highlighting ten black women who are doing just that. While the typical American is sitting on their sofa for four hours per day, these women are working around the clock to blaze a new trail in tech entrepreneurship.
That’s because the women featured in The Root’s story hold a variety of roles in a wide span of businesses.
Highlights include Khalia Braswell, who founded INTech Camp for Girls in North Carolina, Bernadette A. Carter, a software engineer at Google and active member of /dev/color, and Victoria Nneji, who works as a robotics research scientist at Duke University.
It has been proven that a company’s leadership has a significant impact on employee morale, with managers accounting for up to 70% of employee engagement. For young women in the STEM fields, it’s important to see black women in crucial leadership positions.
So as black women in leadership and seniority roles become more visible for young black girls, we could see more diversity in the tech industry overall.
Photo by WOCinTech