• Yulkendy Valdez

One Commitment You Can Make Now: Invest and Promote Women of Color in Tech

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

In 2019, we partnered with LeaderSpring Center, based in Oakland, to run a year-long research on women of color in technology. This collaboration would have not been possible without the sponsorship of the Kapor Center and their Women of Color in Computing Research Collaborative. We brought in Dr. Mara Perez, as our Lead Researcher due to her previous work with building comprehensive roadmaps for change. 

Last December, I had the pleasure of giving my first TEDx talk along with Sonia Manjon from LeaderSpring which referenced a lot of our preliminary findings. Our findings were not surprising, and the data in many ways spoke for itself: We have a very leaky tech pipeline and it is hurting our women of color the most. 

Women and Girls in Computing”, a report released in 2018 by Arizona State University’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, Pivotal Ventures, and the Kapor Center stated the following: 

Among all women employed in computer and information science occupations, only 12% are Black and Latinx women; in 177 Silicon Valley firms, less than 2% of all workers are Black, Latinx, or Native American/ Alaskan Native women. 

Sourcing diverse talent is a #1 challenge for many employers, as a result of the current state of U.S race relations. Many diverse talent recruiting initiatives focus on women and people of color, but the latter ends up always taking a backburner. 

We cannot achieve gender equity, without racial equity. I am excited to release our report in the upcoming weeks with comprehensive recommendations and insights across four foundational pillars: 

1) Enabling agency for Women of Color (WoC)

2) Managing bias across the talent cycle 

3) Developing intentional mentorship & sponsorship programs

4) Building equitable feedback loops for WoC

Until then, I want to share some of my favorite recommendations that every employer should have in mind if they want to bring girls and women of color in tech to the Forefront: 

Assign Women of Color Strategic Projects 

For Women of Color (WoC) getting a job offer is not the finish line. The real battle starts on Day 1 when you are assigned to a homogeneous team of mostly white men, and to top it off, a manager who doesn’t really know how to lead inclusively. 

We cannot rebuild the makeup of the workforce in a day or a year. What we can do is make sure, individuals in positions of power make room and listen to the ideas of women of color. If you have a strategic project you need support, assign it to a woman of color. This gives an opportunity for them to showcase the skills that in a traditional team and setting, might never be observed due to lack of equity and belonging.

Provide Equitable Feedback 

Let’s face it. We are giving ourselves a pad on the back just for hosting celebratory events or panels. Equity comes with real policy changes, not pink mimosas and fancy receptions. 

Throughout our research, we heard from many WoC the importance of feedback. They either get it too late or not at all. Inequitable feedback leads to misinformed and bias performance reviews which affect promotion rates for Women of Color. 

There are plenty of feedback tools out there that incorporate anti-racist systems. 

Build Early Exposure Partnerships With Coding Bootcamps 

Girls and Women of Color are talented and smart. The confidence gap for girls is widely documented, and it affects girls of color the most. They can’t be what they can’t see. If you are having trouble finding women of color in computing, below are great pipeline organizations you should partner with now: 

* GIFs are from Freeform’s TV show, Good Trouble, which feature the stories of diverse young people from all backgrounds navigating adult life and modern America