This Founder is Building a Community for Black Women to Thrive at Work

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa make the dangerous and arduous trek to the wells each day, sometimes walking an average of 3.7 miles to access clean and safe water for their families. The powerful idea of women from different tribes banding together to accomplish a goal inspired entrepreneur Krystal Scott to launch a space for professional Black women to connect.

The Well Space launched on International Women’s Day in March 2018 and aims to provide an authentic network of career-driven Black women based on genuine relationship building.

After nearly a year of building the community from scratch, The Well has just reopened the waitlist for women to apply to join the Tribe and launched a new website along with the rollout of new member benefits.

“A lot of what we need to advance in our career can be gotten from our relationship with other people,” said Scott, founder, and CEO of The Well. “It’s really important for Black women to remember that we are a tribe. We are a community.”

The community-based platform will now allow each of its members to create and maintain their own profile on the website with the ability to directly message others. Members will also have access to a directory of The Well members by location and industry.

Other perks include a program featuring discounts and freebies from Black-women-owned brands and a 12-week mentorship program.

“When I first launched, I was thinking about The Well being a coworking space,” recalled Scott. “But, I didn’t want the community to be limited to just a physical space.”

“We’re building that infrastructure as a community for women to meet in an intentional way,” she added.

Since its launch, The Well has hosted a number of networking events in New York City. From happy hours at Ode to Babel–a Black-woman owned bar and lounge in Brooklyn–to Karaoke nights for members. Scott said the focus is on social ways for Black women to meet.

The platform, currently in beta, has just under 200 members across the United States, Spain, and Canada.  The community connects virtually during video meetups, and collaborate daily via email and group messaging. 

Scott—who has a background in public policy and non-profits—sought to create an environment for Black women to thrive at work after her own journey navigating the workforce and finding that she was often the only Black woman in the room.

“It’s really hard to talk to someone who isn’t a Black woman about things that are happening at work because you’re a Black woman,” she said. “There is a shared experience that Black women have in the workplace.”

The recent Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found nearly half of women of color are often the “onlys” of their race at work and over 80 percent face microaggressions.

Despite efforts to improve diversity, the study found women of color only make up 17 percent of entry-level employees and 4 percent of C-suite executives.

Black women are 40 percent less likely than men to receive the first promotion to manager, reflecting the largely stagnant progress for the advancement of women in the workplace overall.

“We’re underrepresented in the workplace because we’re undervalued,” Scott said noting Black women need more support as entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and in terms of being paid.

Black women were on average paid 61 percent of what white men were paid in 2017, according to Census data. Black women’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent—the highest among women from all of the largest racial and ethnic groups—yet, the gap persists.

Despite the Women in the Workplace study finding stating that more Black and Latina women are requesting promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, they don’t get the same outcomes.

As the conversation around equity in the workplace wages on, Scott says she and her team are ready to expand programming and continue to provide the space for Black women to support and help each other get across the finish line.

“Black women enjoy each other’s company,” said Scott. “We understand each other in a way that’s really beautiful and really powerful.”

Photo credit: Nneka Peters

CTA Announces $10 Million Fund for Women and Diverse Founders

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has announced that it will invest $10 million in venture firms and funds focused on women, people of color and other underrepresented startups and entrepreneurs.

CTA’s multi-million dollar fund targets the disproportionate amount of venture capital that women and minority-led companies receive. In 2017, women received nearly 2.2 percent of the available venture capital funding which totaled $85 billion.

“To continue to evolve and grow, the tech industry needs more equal access to venture funding,” said CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro in a press release. “Various research reports indicate diverse teams make better decisions and achieve greater profits. At CTA, this is one more tool we are deploying to help promote diversity in the technology industry.”

CTA has previously been criticized for having gender-bias and a lack of diversity at its events.

Lora DiCarlo, a women-focused company, was supposed to receive an innovation award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the CTA, stripped the company of its award after determining the company’s Osé robot did not fit into any of the award’s product categories.

Although it is unclear whether or not the fund is in response to the controversy, Lora DiCarlo Founder and CEO, Lora Haddock, called out the event for allowing robot sex dolls and virtual reality porn showcases on the floor of the show.  However, Lora DiCarlo is still prohibited from presenting on the floor of CES this year.

“CES and the CTA have a long, documented history of gender bias, sexism, misogyny, and double standards – much like the tech industry as a whole,” Haddock said in a post. “From the exclusion of female founders and executives to the lack of female-focused products allowed to exhibit on the floor – there are demonstrable issues with diversity.”

AfroTech has reached out to CTA for comment.

 

CES Revokes Innovation Award For A Sex Tech, Women’s Health Startup

Lora DiCarlo, a women-focused sex-tech company, was supposed to receive an innovation award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), stripped the company of its award after determining that the company’s Osé robot did not fit into any of the award’s product categories.

Lora DiCarlo’s Osé is a hands-free, micro-robotic technology that mimics all of the sensations of a human mouth, tongue, and fingers. 

“The product referenced does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program,” Samantha Doherty, CTA spokeswoman said. “CES does not have a category for sex toys. CTA had communicated this position to Lora DiCarlo nearly two months ago and we have apologized to them for our mistake.”

The CTA also cited its rules stating, “Entries deemed by CTA in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified.”

Lora DiCarlo has also been prohibited from presenting on the floor of CES. In past conventions, robot sex dolls and virtual reality porn showcases have been acceptable enough to present at CES.

“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle,” Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, said in a post on the company’s website. “Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outrighted banned. You cannot pretend to be unbiased if you allow a sex robot for men but not a vagina-focused robotic massager for blended orgasm.”

Haddock called it “insulting and ridiculous” that her company’s biomimicry device was ineligible for the Robotics and Drone category.

These Tech Firms Withheld EEO-1 Reports Due to Lack of Diversity

Tech companies like Palantir and Oracle have been keeping their diversity stats under wraps citing fear that competitors might poach their talent, among other excuses. However, a new report reveals the real reason was “embarrassment.”

An investigative probe by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting led to findings that showed companies withholding information about their diversity were less diverse than their counterparts.

Data analytics company Palantir, for example, had no female executives and only one white woman among their managers, according to Reveal’s investigation.

The firm filed various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the 2015 EEO-1 report showing the breakdown of a tech company’s workforce by race, gender, and broad job category. While some companies complied, others chose to block the request with claims of protecting “trade secrets.”

Reveal sued the U.S government for alleging that the Labor Department was violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release EEO-1 reports from Oracle, Palantir, Pandora Media, Gilead Sciences and Splunk. The Labor Department allowed the five tech firms to block their diversity data for over a year until the lawsuit was filed.

“Thanks to our lawsuit, we now know that just under 13 percent of Oracle’s executives in 2015 were women, including co-CEO Safra Catz,” Reveal reports. “Two-thirds of major Silicon Valley companies had a better representation of female executives that year. And like Palantir, Oracle’s workforce was 90 percent white and Asian.”

Through the lawsuit, the organization was granted numerous letters written by tech companies citing reasons to keep their diversity figures private.

“Keep in mind that the government actually went along with these arguments – until we pushed back,” the outlet warns.

Oracle argued exposing diversity figures would threaten its “competitive advantage” and said releasing the numbers could potentially violate their employee’s right to privacy.

“You could literally just log in to LinkedIn and find out,” Y-Vonne Hutchinson, CEO of ReadySet, a diversity solutions firm in Oakland told Reveal. “It’s far more likely that what they’re actually concerned about is that their numbers are disappointing.”

Palantir and Gilead Sciences claimed diversity in the workplace “is a business imperative” while Oracle and Pandora stated unveiling their diversity stats would lead to “raiding of minority or female employees.”

Read the full investigative piece here.

This Tech Startup Wants To Make Sure People of Color See Themselves In Greeting Cards

Culture Greetings is making greeting cards more inclusive with diverse images and themes that speak to communities of color.

The online greeting card startup was founded by tech entrepreneur and business psychologist, Dr. Dionne Mahaffey, who saw a need to create culturally relevant greeting cards that can’t be found in stores.

“It’s important for us to be able to see ourselves in products,” Mahaffey said. “Something bearing an image of us with sayings that are specific to us as a people.”

Culture Greetings is innovating the slow and antiquated process of searching for the perfect card in the store and making it easier for people to create and send a greeting card to anyone in the U.S.

According to the American Greeting Card Association, the average American sends 25 to 30 cards each year, with the most popular being birthday cards.

The act of sending someone a greeting card is still meaningful, but now Culture Greetings is giving users the ability to customize cards catered to people of color in minutes.

“There are other automated greeting card services, but none that deliver cards that have a specific cultural nomenclature,” Mahaffey said.

The Atlanta-based company launched just in time for the holidays last month with over 700 greeting cards (and growing), mostly designed in-house by Mahaffey herself. The tech entrepreneur also works with award-winning cartoonists Quinn McGowan and artist Steve R. Allen whose work can be found in the National Museum of African American History.

“My goal was to design a culturally relevant greeting card platform that would become a leading destination for Black consumers. That’s the beauty of being able to code. We programmers can build whatever we dream,” said Mahaffey, who worked in tech for over two decades.

Users can choose from a wide variety of cards for different occasions, use the online tool to write a personalized handwritten note plus add a gift card. The custom built automation software then prints, stamps, and mails the card to be delivered the next day.

“It gives the same experience of someone receiving handwritten cards, but it takes the sender the same amount of time it takes to write a social media post,” she said.

The company plans to launch a series of Black history cards in February. The platform is also set to launch an iOS and Android app in 2019.

Mahaffey is the founder of several businesses including the WhereU app, a directory of Black-owned businesses.

Unapologetically Dope Tackles Issues Faced by Black Women in Tech

Career technologist Dr. Nicki Washington is no stranger to the challenges Black women face in the tech industry. In her new book Unapologetically Dope she channels her experience into a guide for Black women on how to survive and thrive in the tech field.

“This book is like my personal diary,” Dr. Washington told AfroTech. “I wrote about the microaggressions I experienced because I needed other women to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that there is always someone you can turn to.”

Dr. Washington had the lightbulb moment to write Unapologetically Dope after hearing a group of Black women talk about their struggles navigating the tech industry. She realized she was often part of conversations where inclusion in the workplace and self-doubt were the main issues.

She dedicated a summer to writing the lessons that aren’t taught out of a textbook or in the classroom.

“I wrote this book because I saw and heard that issues around diversity and inclusion still weren’t being solved,” she said. “Nothing is being done to treat the actual problem.”

Despite nationwide efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across the tech ecosystem, Black women comprise only 15 percent of computing Bachelor’s degrees and 3 percent of computing degrees overall.

The computer science educator—whose mom was a computer programmer—grew up surrounded by technologists who were also HBCU graduates. That representation allowed her to not only see the opportunity in tech but also better understand how to build her career.

Dr. Nicki Washington is the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

But Washington is tired of being the “first.”

“It still bothers me that we still talk about people being ‘the first,’” she said. “The problem with that is that there haven’t been a lot of people who have come behind me.”

She talks about being in her last year of graduate school when her mother, a former IBM programmer, gifted her a set of golf lessons for Christmas. “A lot of deals are made out on the golf course,” she said. “My mother told me ‘you don’t have to know how to play the game well, but you have to know how to play the game.’”

Unapologetically Dope is Washington’s contribution to ensuring that current and future technologists are equipped to tackle the diversity-starved field.

“I hope every woman or girl of color comes away empowered and like they are not alone,” Washington said. “Their stories are the same as mine. I hope to give them that sense of comfort that there was someone who went through this.”

Micron Donates $10 Million After Releasing First Diversity and Inclusion Report

Micron, the tech giant specializing in big data, announced its $10 million contribution to programs that help women and the underrepresented get into computer science.

“Promoting diversity is absolutely essential to moving high tech forward. It is only through listening to all voices that we can ensure the best ideas come forward,” said Micron President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra in the company’s first annual Diversity and Inclusion Report.

Micron’s report details how the company–which encourages gender-pay equity through analysis–created a formal sponsorship program to foster relationships between senior-level female employees and execs in the company plus launched an Unconscious Bias training.

“We recognize that embedding diversity and inclusion into all aspects of the organization will require continued focus and tenacity,” said Micron Technology Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Karen Metz in a press release. “This inaugural Micron report sets the foundation for driving and measuring meaningful change as we accelerate our efforts to build a global workforce that reflects the world that we live in, and the diversity of thought we need to drive innovation and competitive advantage.”

The $10 million donation includes distribution to the Advancing Curiosity Fund, Diversity and Opportunity Fund for Virginia Institutions of Higher Education and support for girls STEM camps in both Japan and Taiwan.

A Former Facebook Manager Just Called Out The Company For Mistreatment of Black Employees and Users

A former Facebook manager posted a memo today accusing the company of having a problem with diversity, specifically one with black people.

Mark Luckie, the former Strategic Partner Manager for Global Influencers Focused on Underrepresented Voices, sent the memo to all Facebook employees on November 9 and reposted the message on the platform today.

“Facebook doesn’t have an excuse to not change,” Luckie told AfroTech. “This was my way of saying there is a way to change and this is how you do it.”

Luckie highlighted some of the internal and external issues the company has with handling diversity.

“Black people are finding that their attempts to create “safe spaces” on Facebook for conversation among themselves are being derailed by the platform itself,” Luckie said in the memo. “Non-black people are reporting what are meant to be positive efforts as hate speech, despite them often not violating Facebook’s terms of service.”

Luckie told AfroTech that he decided to write the memo after speaking with various black employees at Facebook who had similar worries. He noted that many black people within the company end up leaving because they feel alienated and these feelings are now transcending to black Facebook users.

“There’s a number of reasons to delete Facebook,” Luckie said. “If you don’t feel like Facebook has your back when you’re trying to have conversations on its platform, then you’re just going to go elsewhere.” 

Luckie said that although diversity hires are helpful, they are not the “cure-all” for Facebook’s problem.

“Inclusion should be a team effort. It is not enough to simply hire people to focus on diversity,” Luckie said. “Everyone on teams whose work focuses on varied cultural backgrounds should be responsible for ensuring the outcome of their work is representative of those groups.”

Luckie also mentioned that Facebook has created a facade of an inclusive space and that racism is rampant in its offices. Those who are on the receiving end of bigotry often hit a dead end when reporting issues to human resources.

In the memo, Luckie mentions incidents where he encountered microaggressions at the company and how other black employees were discouraged from joining and attending black events and groups.

“To feel like an oddity at your own place of employment because of the color of your skin while passing posters reminding you to be your authentic self feels in itself inauthentic,” Luckie said in the memo.

Luckie provided 10 suggestions for strategic plans and analytics that would help Facebook improve diversity and inclusivity in its offices and on its platform. He said that he also gave the suggestions on a team level while with the company.

“It wasn’t seen as a priority,” Luckie said. “Part of the reason I ended up leaving is that there were other black people in various areas of the company that were having the very same issues, so it was a systemic thing.”

The memo highlights some of the bigger issues with diversity in the tech space. Companies like Lyft, Uber, Google and Amazon have diversity initiatives across, but haven’t really moved the needle.

“Facebook has done a good job at convincing itself that it is inclusive,” Luckie said.

In a statement sent to Afrotech, a spokesperson for Facebook said the company is doing its best to be an inclusive company.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been working diligently to increase the range of perspectives among those who build our products and serve the people who use them throughout the world,” Anthony Harrison, Facebook spokesperson. “The growth in representation of people from more diverse groups, working in many different functions across the company, is a key driver of our ability to succeed. We want to fully support all employees when there are issues reported and when there may be micro-behaviors that add up.”

This New Bootcamp Is Helping Diverse Entrepreneurs With Business Technology

A new tech-focused organization created a program aimed at helping underrepresented entrepreneurs leverage the latest business technology to simplify their workflow and focus on growth.

The Cincinnati-based NITRO! Bootcamp is designed to “power up” small owned businesses through business technology training including cloud storage, creative services, project management, and accounting. The training—made possible with a $100,000 grant from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Cintrifuse—is slated to take place during a one-day boot camp on February 23, 2019.

“Startups or small businesses are so focused on running their business that they’re not even using some of the best technology out there,” said Maurice Coffey, a Procter & Gamble Co. executive who’s helping with Cintrifuse initiatives to WCPO Cincinnati. “We want to make them more efficient and enable them to expand their business reach.”

Participants in the NITRO! Bootcamp, will get access to free tech-enabled products curated to help business owners save resources in their everyday practices. The program is prepared to train up to 25 entrepreneurs in February with a periodic follow-up to ensure participants retain training.

Business owners will also have access to networking and mentorship opportunities as well as free exclusive access to business software apps.

The program is for diverse business owners in the Cincinnati region who have three or more employees and an average annual sales of $100,000 up to $1 million in the last three years.

The program was created after Cintrifuse—a tech-focused organization—noticed entrepreneurs weren’t taking advantage of free business tech products and services, Eric Weissmann, vice president for communications, community and economic inclusion at Cintrifuse told WCPO Cincinnati.

While the program is orienting small businesses around tech services, the goal is not to help entrepreneurs build apps and become full-fledged tech companies.

Applications are due Monday, December 3, 2018.

Intel Says It’s Reached An Internal Workplace Diversity Milestone

Intel recently announced a major milestone: full representation of women and underrepresented minorities in the company’s U.S. workforce two years ahead of its 2020 goal. This means Intel’s workforce now reflects the percentage of underrepresented tech workers.

“We are proud of our progress but not satisfied. We prioritize this as a business imperative to drive innovation and future growth,” said Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer in a news release. “Diversity and inclusion cannot be treated as an add-on. It has to be integrated into everything we do and this is just the beginning.”

In their diversity and inclusion report released Monday, the company reports 9.6 percent of its workforce identifies as Hispanic and 4.6 percent are Black. The report also reveals 27 percent of its staff are women.

The company set out to reach this goal in 2015 after former CEO Brian Krzanich announced their $300 million commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion.

Intel attributes this achievement to their comprehensive hiring, retention and progression strategy. Their last report released in March noted there was still a gap in representation of Black employees.

However, the diversity report released Monday claims they have closed the gap with the ongoing efforts of hiring and fostering inclusion. The report shows Black workers had the highest increase in Intel’s workforce as well. 

“We need to make sure inclusion remains at the center. Every voice matters, and we need to listen and act to make change happen,” Whye said.

In 2016, Intel started Warmline, a confidential employee hotline designed to help employees with career advancement and improve the overall employee experience. Since its launch, Warmline has become a reliable resource for employees and has resulted in insight to help create a more inclusive environment.

For Intel, this is just the beginning. Next year, the company plans to offer Warmline as a resource to employees globally, drive leadership equality, and focus on women of color.

Read their full report here.