By Lynzee Mychae | Michigan Chronicle | Word In Black

This post was originally published on Michigan Chronicle

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(WIB) – Microsoft recently made headlines by promoting Sarah Bond to President of Xbox, marking a significant moment for diversity and inclusion. Bond’s remarkable achievement is just one example of the rising wave of Black women who are making their presence felt in the tech world. Once Bobby Kotick, the Xbox CEO of Activision Blizzard, departs at the end of 2023, the leadership changes at Xbox will result in a greater representation of women in gaming leadership roles at Microsoft compared to men. Sarah Bond’s appointment as President of Xbox sends a powerful message – representation matters. As the tech industry continues to diversify, it becomes increasingly vital for aspiring Black women to find the support and resources they need to excel.

While the discourse of women making inroads into the tech industry is undoubtedly empowering, it’s crucial to examine the complete set of statistics. When viewed comprehensively, women constitute just 34% of the STEM workforce, with Black women accounting for a mere 3% of that demographic. Despite some incremental improvements, as revealed in a 2022 study by the National Girls Collaborative Project, women’s representation in the STEM workforce remains the minority in leadership roles. However, when we consider the intersection of race, the situation becomes even more disconcerting, with individuals from underrepresented communities, notably Black women, encountering even more pronounced disparities at all levels of the tech industry.

“I will 100% say it – Sarah Bond as the President of Xbox is Huge for the Black Community,” said Parris Lilly, information security technician and Gamertag Radio host. “She inspires me and more importantly will inspire our youth to pursue education paths in STEM and Business. They’ll know that our culture and perspectives can have a voice and seat at the leadership table where decisions are made. I will proudly stand on this hill as it is only the beginning.”

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The significance of representation and the presence of Black women in leadership roles cannot be overstated. This importance arises from the multitude of challenges Black women continue to encounter in their pursuit of success within the tech industry. Biased hiring processes, often steeped in unconscious bias, present formidable barriers for Black women in their quest for employment opportunities. Their laudable endeavors to champion diversity and inclusion can sometimes be met with resistance from managers and leaders who are hesitant to embrace change. In addition, the scarcity of robust networks and available resources compounds these challenges, constraining access to mentorship, guidance, and avenues for career advancement. A striking concern lies in the underrepresentation of Black women in senior leadership positions, perpetuating a broader lack of diversity throughout management and the tech industry.

The tech industry’s gender bias is a glaring reality, perpetuated by harmful stereotypes that suggest women and girls should not code or pursue careers in technology. These stereotypes undermine the talent and potential of countless individuals, discouraging them from pursuing their passions and contributing to a diverse and inclusive tech landscape. With women holding just 25% of computing jobs, and their limited presence in academic and high school computer science programs, it’s evident that gender disparities persist. The gender gap in tech is not merely a fleeting issue; it’s a systemic problem that demands attention and action.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, countless women in tech are rewriting the narrative. They are forging paths into a traditionally male-dominated field, breaking down barriers, and proving that passion and talent know no gender. With determination, resilience, and unwavering commitment, these women are not only making significant strides in tech but also inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

But it’s not just on the corporate stage; it’s a movement that’s gaining momentum in academic circles, as statistics reveal a growing enrollment of Black women in tech-based majors according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Recent statistics show a notable increase in the enrollment of Black women in tech-related majors. Black women constitute a substantial 46% of Black tech graduates from HBCUs. Additionally, Black professionals are charting a path to success through non-traditional routes in the tech realm, thanks to exposure to coding classes, STEM cohorts, and organizations dedicated to closing the tech divide.

Being an alum of so many different Tech Town programs and just being ensconced in that community has been a game changer.ACHSHA JONES, THE CEO AND FOUNDER OF TRIP SLIP

One of the driving forces behind this surge in tech-based resources is Detroit’s own Tech Town. This innovation district is nurturing budding tech talents and providing valuable resources for aspiring tech professionals. Tech Town offers a range of initiatives, from coding bootcamps to mentorship programs, and have been vital and helping Black women break into the tech world. It’s a hub of innovation that’s setting the stage for the tech leaders of tomorrow.

Achsha Jones, the CEO and Founder of Trip Slip, is intimately familiar with the profound impact of Tech Town. As an up-and-coming leader in the tech industry, Jones recognized the digital gap concerning permission slips, experiential learning, and Black children. Her involvement with Tech Town, along with their resources and network of tech experts, has not only propelled her as a founder but also enabled her to mentor and support other aspiring Black women in her vicinity.

Jones said, “Being an alum of so many different Tech Town programs and just being ensconced in that community has been a game changer. The training that you get, the relationships that you build, and then the services, the support, and the opportunities that you get just by doing the work are unbelievable. I am a lifelong and intentional Detroiter and there is a renaissance that’s happening that’s meant for people who are in the city and want to get involved. Tech Town is a great place to do it.”

The tech world is not just about coding and hardware; it’s about solving complex problems, creating groundbreaking products, and improving the lives of people worldwide. Black women are answering the call to participate in these critical endeavors, and their impact is already being felt across the industry. With unique perspectives and approaches to stories and situations, Black women are valuable to the development of many organizations, applications, and companies.

Community, accurate representation, and mentoring are indispensable components in the battle against Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is a silent adversary that affects individuals across various industries, including tech. It often manifests as a nagging feeling of not being as competent as others perceive you to be. For many Black women in tech, this phenomenon can be especially pronounced, given the intersectionality of race and gender. The relentless pursuit of success, coupled with the weight of representation and expectations, can lead to overwhelming feelings of inadequacy.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is a continuous process. By building and nurturing communities, engaging in open conversations, and offering mentorship and support, Black women in tech are forging a path towards self-assurance and empowerment.  Black Tech Saturdays, a collective of Black tech founders, funders, and supporters, has also helped take the Detroit Tech movement by storm. Co-founder Alexa Turnage says that have support groups that not only discuss equity gaps in tech for minority groups, including black women is vital for success.

“We’re literally just sharing knowledge and sharing all our wisdom and putting it into a big community pot and asking, “What is it that you need?”, said Turnage. “Whether it be a job, training to get into tech, whether it be information on STEM or cyber security, or developing – we have a very big pool of community resources and knowledge that can be pulled from.” Black Tech Saturdays is proactively facilitating connections to funding, refining ideas, and integrating Black women into an ever-expanding community of opportunities and inspiration.

The aspiration to excel and make meaningful contributions to the tech world serves as the driving force behind this increasing trend of enhanced representation. Black women recognize the potential for meaningful contributions and innovation in technology. Their experiences, perspectives, and skills are invaluable, leading to more comprehensive and creative solutions in an industry that thrives on diversity.

As more Black women enter the tech workforce, the landscape becomes more inclusive, innovative, and representative of the diverse society we live in. Their presence is not just a reflection of change; it’s the driving force behind a more dynamic and exciting future for the technology industry. This is a movement that deserves recognition and support, as it is not only transforming individual lives but also shaping the future of technology for us all.