Is the tech world finally looking to black women to join the talent pool? According to Lisa Nicole Bell, founder and CEO of Inspired Life Media Group, if Silicon Valley isn’t already taking notice of tech’s fastest growing minority groups, it will be soon. And black women need to be ready to jump from tech consumers to tech makers.
“Black women consume significant amounts of digital media. We’re frequently the early adopters for new software and hardware,” she writes in Inc. The numbers are there: An Essence magazine 2008 report found that five times as many black women — 36 percent — use cell phones for three or more hours per day. It also found that black women are much more likely than other female consumers to use technology and the Internet as tools of empowerment and self-expression. Add to this, a recent Pew study, which revealed that blacks “over-index” on Twitter and Instagram.
While the tech world may finally realize the need for inclusion of more black women, actually making that happen is another matter. According to Bell, several steps must be taken not only by Silicon Valley but also by black women themselves.
“Education seems to be the most promising means of both increasing the number of black women active in tech,” she explains. “With a paucity of black women choosing to major in computer science and related studies, there has to be more done to encourage black girls to see themselves as producers in addition to being consumers.”
And the education push needs to start early on. By encouraging young girls to enter STEM careers, not only will this affect the tech industry but the world in general. “More girls and women need to be encouraged to pursue interests and careers in digital,” Mira Lowe, senior editor for features at CNN Digital, explains to Bell . “If women are not engaging in the technology world, they will ultimately not be contributing to the world at large.”
One organization helping to encourage young black girls to enter the tech arena is Black Girls CODE, an organization founded by Kimberly Bryant, a technical project manager based in San Francisco. “There is definitely a very serious pipeline issue. The K-12 infrastructure does not currently provide adequate access to training in computer science,” Bryant says. “Once we can better feed the tech pipeline with women and other diverse candidates, we can begin to move the needle and change the face of tech as these students move on to attend college, pursue careers in tech, and eventually become the tech leaders, builders, and mentors for the next generation.”
Lastly, once young black women have studied and entered the tech world there needs to be mentoring available. “Network with people in the field. Develop and preserve your digital footprint. Believe that you can make a digital difference,”Lowe tells Bell.