February is Black History Month in the US. Here at Data Relish, we think now is a great time to celebrate some of the tech movements currently underway to help and empower women of colour. Only 21% of the STEM workforce is female, and women of colour make up an even smaller percentage of that — but there are some wonderful initiatives in place that aim to give support and encouragement.
Black Girls Code are empowering girls of colour across the US to break into STEM fields. They plan to train one million girls by 2040, helping to usher in a new era of racial equity in tech. By holding regular hackathons and coding classes, and teaching girls game design, programming and how to create apps, this wonderful organisation is already bridging the digital divide. By introducing girls to tech when they’re between the ages of 7 and 17 gives them the opportunity to learn at a crucial time in their lives, when they’re thinking about what they want to be when they grow up; Black Girls Code makes it clear from the start that they are capable of breaking into, and will be greatly valued in the tech industry.
Code2040, the “largest racial equity community in tech”, is a nonprofit fighting to break down the barriers that prevent black and latinx technologists with what they need to participate and lead in the field. They believe in community action and working to dismantle the oppressive systems in place that are holding people of colour back in the industry. With people of colour only making 5% of the tech workforce at top companies, Code2040 recognise the importance of not only access to work, but access to power.
Finally, Inclusive Boards’ IB100 is a list published yearly of the most influential BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) leaders in tech. While drawing much-deserved attention to the leaders in question, Inclusive Boards also call on tech companies to implement more inclusive work practices, as an important step towards tackling the structural problems and progression challenges that people of colour come up against while moving up in the industry.
One of the most important things that you can do is to listen to the people of colour in your own workplace. There are still barriers for people of colour, particularly women, when it comes to breaking into or leading in tech, and it is everyone’s responsibility to try and break these barriers down.