Only in recent years has the “2% problem” been publicly addressed. It’s been clear that overwhelming majority of the tech industry are young white or Asian males for years. But there was never much of a push to change that imbalance of the people controlling the money in the tech world.
Now, Silicon Valley is working to offer more opportunities to minorities in the fastest-growing, highest-paid industry in the world. This unprecedented movement is led by several of the few minorities who’ve managed to make it into an almost-exclusively white or Asian market, and they’re working to bring the chance to innovate within the tech world to young rising stars of more diverse backgrounds.
Unsurprisingly, many of these leading advocates are women; another demographic that has been carefully excluded from a light-skinned male-run industry, and has consistently been passed over for opportunities that were given to male counterparts that were often less qualified.
Here are a two of the female leaders of color who are working to diversify the Silicon Valley bubble:
Watching her middle-school-aged daughter struggle to find other young African American girls her age who were interested in pursuing engineering, Kimberly Bryant saw an opportunity to create a positive atmosphere where these girls could learn the skills they’d been longing to learn. She founded Black Girls Code in 2011 as an educational camp that teaches coding, and it’s been met with wild success with more than 4,000 girls in nine different cities jumping into computer sciences through the camp.
Bryant is seeking to “change the face of technology,” and wants to create a place in the tech industry for young, black female computer engineers to “find their voice.”
Her mission? “We are creating a powerful community of women skilled and confident about what they can create in the workplace.”
Erica Joy Baker
Erica Baker has used her position as a senior engineer for Slack Technologies to advocate for greater diversity and gender inclusion in the tech industry after seeing that she was one of the only black women in her field. She’s been a voice for diversity in engineering for years, often drawing criticism for speaking about an issue that the industry preferred to hide.
When she worked for Google, Baker did just that, requested to see the company’s diversity numbers, but was “shot down all the time.” She worked with her colleagues to create a spreadsheet of their salaries, and found glaring differences in pay based on race and gender.
Baker has published several pieces on the lack of diversity within the tech industry; making statements that many minority tech employees were afraid to say for fear of losing their jobs. At Slack, Baker spends much of her time working as an advocate for African Americans in the growing tech market.
“I see as my duty to hold companies accountable until stuff gets better. I am trying to keep moving the needle, to make sure the stuff that we didn’t talk about, the stuff that gets brushed under the rug, gets discussed and gets solved,” Baker says.