The Civic Center, located in New York City’s technology hub, Silicon Alley, was filled with Black women and Latinas of all hues on Thursday night. It’s not your typical scene when it comes to the tech space. However, it made the statement we are here and present—and we can talk tech with the best of ‘em.
Technologists, developer evangelists, community leaders and journalists came together to discuss women of color in technology. Powered by Nkonde & Associates founder Mutale Nkonde, the event provided attendees the opportunity to network and direct questions toward panelists, which included Calena Jamieson, community outreach lead at Black Girls CODE; Christina Morillo, information security expert; and Majella Mark, co-founder and CEO at Beau Exchange. There was a common theme woven by all speakers from Nkonde and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer to keynote speaker, Kathryn Finney, founder and Managing Director at digitalundivided: Black and Latina women in tech are a necessity, not an option.
The numbers tell a different story. The diversity data released last year shows at big name tech companies such Google, Twitter and Facebook, among others, African Americans and Latinos make up no more than two percent of the workforce. When it comes to African-American-led startups, less than one percent receive funding nationally. Digitalundivided (DID) is invested in filling the tech-talent pipeline with women of color and, thus far, has helped 30 percent of its FOCUS Fellows receive angel and investor funding, Finney mentioned during her keynote.
“Tech is overwhelmingly white and overwhelming male, and because of those two things it really colors the atmosphere around tech,” she said.
Finney, who was one of the first fashion bloggers, launching The Budget Fashionista in 2003, shared statistics that highlight why women of color in tech matter. The DID leader noted that women control the majority of private wealth, Black people have over a trillion dollars in purchasing power and Black women create businesses more than any other group (six times the national average). When it comes to Latinas, reports show that we’re the decision makers and shifting to the breadwinners in our households.
The largest issue is producing scalable businesses. However, tech-focused social enterprises such as DID and NewME, as well as diversity initiatives powered by Dreamit Ventures and Techstars look to support and take participating startups to the next level.
“Women bring unique experiences to teams that can solve real world problems,” says Nkonde.
Take Zuvva, which is revolutionizing the way you purchase trendy, yet traditional African fashions. Founder Kelechi Anyadiegwu saw a problem—one that’s unique to her and many other women—and came up with a solution. Since launching, her e-commerce platform has gained a great deal of traction.
You see, diversity breeds diverse ideas and, ultimately, more revenue. Don’t believe us? Just watch.
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.