African American Women in Tech: an Uphill Battle

One million STEM jobs are coming down the pipeline in America in just the next decade alone. Yet it’s clear we don’t have the talent in our own backyard to fill those roles. Girls in Tech isn’t the only organization racing to funnel more women in STEM careers and working hard to make sure they stay there—the government, corporations and a slew of other non-profits are all fighting the same battle.
African American women in tech
So, we know there’s a shortage of talent. And you don’t have to know the numbers by heart to know—or simply look around you at your average tech company—that there’s a painfully giant delta where women STEM workers should be. But what about African American women?
Black and Hispanic women are hitting just the single-digits in the tech industry.
Here’s the numbers

  • There are just 88 startups in the U.S. led by black women.
  • These startups make up just 4% of total startups led by women
  • The average amount of funding for a black female founder? Just ~$36K

We’re looking uphill
Sheryl Sandberg’s initiative has partnered with McKinsey for a 2016 Women in the Workplace study, perhaps the most updated hard numbers on the state of women at work. The study, released late last month, went to 132 companies that employ more than 4.6 million people.
Here’s the cliff’s notes version of the results, according to the Wall Street Journal: “Last year’s report concluded that we were 100 years away from gender equality in the C-suite. A year later, we’re not much closer—and that is not just bad for women, it’s bad for our companies and our economy.”

  • Women hold less than 30% of roles in senior management.
  • The chances of women being promoted to manager level is slim – and they never stop losing ground even if they do make it.
  • Women of color, hands down, make up the most underrepresented group, and experience the steepest drop-offs.

Is there anything positive in this?
Squint your eyes and you’ll see a shimmer of hope: women are asking for raises now—in fact, they’re asking just as often as their male peers. Everyone always says women don’t ask; well, now we can point to the numbers that state just the opposite.
However, women who negotiate are often considered “too aggressive” or “bossy.” These misperceptions link back to unconscious gender bias.
And, it’s a reminder of just how complex this issue is.