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  • Writer's pictureKayla Williams

Tech Companies Won't Diversify, So Black Tech Multiplies


"File:UK Black Tech stock photos 12.jpg" by UK Black Tech http://ukblacktech.com/stockphotos/ is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Conversations worldwide have occurred around racial inequality due to the extrajudicial execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Companies are left with questions of diversifying, equal opportunity, and inclusivity. Now the inequalities that plague the workplace can’t be ignored, which becomes particularly interesting within the tech industry.

Recent news reported that prominent tech companies had not made much progress in hiring more minorities. Google, which speaks of efforts to diversify its company, only made a 1.7 increase in 2020 from its 2014 score of 2% in Black employee representation. Other companies follow suit in their lack of significant difference. Tech companies’ slothful climb in creating a permanent space for people of color has more to do with retention resulting in more harm within the communities they fail to include.

Diversifying the tech industry is more than just hiring people of color but making sure they stay. Yet, systematic racial bias seems to be a larger problem that needs confronting. People of color face a genuine prejudice and bias in the workplace. Many report isolation, discrimination, and toxic work environments.

The workplace’s racial disparities play out in the differences in pay and the lack of a future to move up into executive positions like their white counterparts. That is why people of color tend to leave the industry 3.5 times the rate of white men. The sad part is that the less diversity in the tech environment, the more likely there will be significant flaws in designing the products we integrate into our daily lives.

Often we don’t think that the technology we use can be racially bias. Yet, the technology we used is programed by humans allowing biases to be coded into technology unconsciously. That bias is in the potential risk self-driving cars pose because they fail to detect dark-skin tones. The threat facial-recognition software used by police has when it’s more likely to mistake one black person for another. Or even the times when soap dispensers won’t dispense soap to dark-skinned hands.

The design flaws occur when the creators use mostly light-skinned examples, which results in algorithmic bias. A commonly proposed solution is to have a genuinely diverse tech industry. Since the industry is predominately white they may not check how a particular product would function on darker skin. Yet, if people of color were represented in the industry, the racial bias problem wouldn’t exist.

Tech companies have ways to go before people of color feel represented, but that doesn’t mean they have to wait to be included. Many black-owned tech companies are taking the world by storm. In particular, SolGreen, founded by Matthew N Portis, is the first company to develop innovative clean technology solutions for communities worldwide. Although SolGreen has faced many challenges as a black-owned tech company, it hasn’t stopped them from building on black innovators’ lineage. So why wait for change when you can be it.


Resources:

Sumagaysay, Levi. “We Are Learning More About Diversity At Tech Companies, But It Isn’T Good News”. Marketwatch, 2021, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/we-are-learning-more-about-diversity-at-tech-companies-but-it-isnt-good-news-11610830395. Accessed 22 Jan 2021.

Connor, Michael. “Tech Still Doesn’T Get Diversity. Here’S How To Fix It”. Wired, 2017, https://www.wired.com/2017/02/tech-still-doesnt-get-diversity-heres-fix/. Accessed 22 Jan 2021.

“Study Finds A Potential Risk With Self-Driving Cars: Failure To Detect Dark-Skinned Pedestrians.” Vox, 2019, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/3/5/18251924/self-driving-car-racial-bias-study-autonomous-vehicle-dark-skin.Accessed 22 Jan 2021

Buell, Spencer, and Spencer Buell. “MIT Researcher: AI Has A Race Problem, And We Need To Fix It”. Boston Magazine, 2018, https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2018/02/23/artificial-intelligence-race-dark-skin-bias/. Accessed 22 Jan 2021.

“Meet Matthew Portis, The Inventor Who Engineered And Patented The First Solar Workstation — Afrotech”. Afrotech, 2021, https://afrotech.com/black-owned-cleantech-company-solgreen. Accessed 22 Jan 2021.

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