As a black woman born and raised in the United States, I’ve experienced firsthand racial and social inequities. But that doesn’t make me a victim, it’s made me bolder, braver, resilient, and it has made me strong. It’s taught me perseverance. It is, in part, why I do the work I do.
I come from a legacy of strong, determined men and women. At 40, my grandmother went back to school and got her master’s degree in education so that she could teach — she saw the inequities in the education system. Each of her siblings were standouts in their respective career fields.
My grandfather and his brothers started their own trucking company when they realized they were being left out of lucrative opportunities and denied the better hauling routes. They learned how to repair their own trucks because mechanics would intentionally delay working on their vehicles to give non-minorities the upper hand. So they learned how to fix their vehicles themselves. Some were entrepreneurs by choice, others by necessity. But they were all problem solvers. That was passed down to my parents and my siblings and me.
Dinnertime at my home was centered around conversation about our day, our friends, activities, and talk of what we learned in school. It was normal for my parents to edit and add commentary to the backdrop of what we were being taught, be it US history, Black and African American achievement and the civil rights movement, or even home economics. Sadly, biases and microaggressions permeated the mindsets of educators, so it was a constant consideration of which battle they chose to address with the school administration.
Racial inequalities have long been the large purple elephant in the room, but to be more competitive and innovative as a nation, we must be more racially, ethnically, and culturally inclusive. In addition, we’re leaving Black/African American and other people of color out of economic growth opportunities as a result of not having a seat at the table in the tech industry.
While you’ll see pockets of hope, the tech industry has not been a leading sector. And these are the innovators, the visionaries, the early adopters, so you think, Why isn’t the tech industry leading on this? You’d think there would be a different level of openness. But there isn’t.
While African Americans are 13% of the US population, in 2018 the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that just 3.5% of engineers and other professionals in computer and electronics manufacturing were Black, and just 1.7% of tech executives were Black men and women, as compared to the 77% who were white men and women.