I had the pleasure of being invited to deliver a keynote speech for Computer Weekly’s Annual Diversity event. This year the event focussed on ‘Promoting Advocacy – Supporting under-represented groups in tech’ and so I talked about advocacy for Black people in tech during a period of racial awakening.
There are several reasons why only 3 percent of the UK tech workforce is Black and only 1-2 percent of technical roles in the UK tech sector are held by Black people. Given these figures, Black women in UK tech are among the rarest people in the sector since Black men often fare better due to gendered factors.
I have seen first-hand that the pathways to get into UK tech – and getting ahead once you’re in – are littered with roadblocks. When people are the reasons these roadblocks exist, the causes for the roadblocking behaviour can be grouped into two broad categories: unintentional and intentional. In the unintentional category sits the only cause I can think of: being cryogenically frozen in 7100 BC and reanimated in 2020 with absolutely no clue of what has transpired over the past several odd millennia. In the intentional category sits behaviours that people actively engage in, including outright racism, stereotyping, “unconscious bias”, microaggressions, victimisation, gaslighting, retaliation, and the like.
Of course, the system in the UK is such that even if you somehow stay in the tech sector long enough and survive the onslaught of these intentional behaviours, you may still end up leaving the sector since currently it is not legally required for companies to reveal any pay disparities along racial and ethnic lines, just gender. In the absence of this data, you are usually just left with a nagging suspicion that you are being unfairly paid and good luck getting human resources to help you figure out what’s really going on! Although money is not everything, it is often at least a part of the motivation for beginning a career in technology. Being unfairly paid because of your race or ethnicity is wage theft, and this theft hurts both ways: A recent study from a Wall Street bank found that during the past 20 years, the US economy lost sixteen trillion dollars due to racism against Black people in different sectors of the economy, including employment. If the same study was done here in the UK, how much would racism be found to cost the UK tech sector?
Watch the video to hear the full speech where I give five ways you can take concrete action starting TODAY to advocate and dismantle these barriers for your own benefit.