Diversity and Inclusion Tech Market Reaches $100M, Study Finds

Researchers looking at the global market for diversity and inclusion technology predict new software has the potential to disrupt patterns of bias and drive organizational change.

“After years of spending time and money on diversity and inclusion, there is a palpable feeling of fatigue: the representation of historically underrepresented employees has not changed commensurate with those efforts and many organizations are still far from reaching their goals,” researchers wrote in the report.

The report identified 105 diversity and inclusion tech firms and found the market size is roughly $100 million and growing. Forty-three percent of providers focus on software used in talent acquisition and management. Twenty-six percent of the market is geared toward analytics, followed by development and advancement (19%), and engagement and retention (12%).

“We know that companies are renewing their focus on D&I,” said Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst of RedThread Research in a press release. “As a result, we’ve seen a flood of new entrants into this market sector. There is very little insight, however, into who they are or what they are offering. We wanted to understand who the players are, exactly what problems they are trying to solve, and how successful they have been, both financially and in the eyes of their customers.”

Seventy-four percent of diversity and inclusion tech vendors surveyed are small companies with fewer than 50 employees and 60 percent are less than four years old, the report found. Their customer base is primarily found in the finance/banking, technology, and professional services industries.

“Diversity and inclusion has long been a priority for many of our clients and other organizations,” said Carole Jackson, co-author of the report and Senior Principal in Mercer’s Diversity & Inclusion consulting practice. “It wasn’t always a top ‘business priority’ for CEOs. It was often considered ‘the right thing to do’ and with that came nominal budgets and superficial support from leaders.”

Diversity and inclusion across the tech industry is well-documented as companies make small strides towards progress. 

“With more and more research demonstrating a direct link between greater diversity and improved business results, CEOs are putting real budgets in place to eliminate bias, ensuring equity in all talent processes, and demanding inclusive working environments,” Jackson said. “This is proving to be the fuel for change and creating space for these technologies to grow.”

 

LaTesha Blair Named CIO of Law Firm Burr & Forman LLP

Law firm, Burr & Forman LLP has named LaTesha Blair its new Chief Information Officer to oversee the company’s tech services and resources.

She will continue to drive innovation and assess firm-wide technology strategy to ensure security and efficiency.

“LaTesha’s leadership and vision will guide Burr & Forman’s next phase of development in the rapidly changing technology arena,” said Burr & Forman CEO Ed Christian in a press release.  “Our goal is to improve service and functionality for not only our employees but also our clients.”

Blair joins the firm from McNair Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina where she served as the director of information technology. She has over 20 years of technology experience including IT roles at Lexington Medical Center and the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

Blair earned her undergraduate degree in management information systems from the University of Charlotte Belk College of Business.

Opinion: Dear Tech Executives: Your Excuses On Diversity Are Getting Old

Let’s be clear: simply “hitting the numbers” on diversity does not equal authentic inclusion.

As a millennial Black woman who works in tech, I understand how it feels to be the “other”–both at work and in my day to day life. The old “excuse” that there aren’t enough candidates of color is no longer cutting it. For years, we’ve worked harder, smarter, and longer to secure a seat at the table.

We are here, ready and willing to take the industry by storm; if you’re smart, you’ll do what it takes to garner our expertise at your own companies. Aside from having rich life experiences, marginalized folks are often well-versed in how to navigate obstacles in a special way. We are innovative by nature and have a knack for problem-solving, both of out of necessity and by choice.

Full transparency here: I’m speaking from a place of slight privilege. I work for Mayvenn, one of the leading startups in the Bay Area. Mayvenn was founded with the intention of helping hairstylists grow their businesses and keep dollars in their communities. It leverages the power of technology, the allure of a lifestyle brand, and the hustle of the beauty industry. By selling Mayvenn’s products, beauty industry professionals are able to generate extra income, get access to education and marketing materials, and their own e-commerce websites, complete with tech support. Most importantly, there are never any out-of-pocket costs to the stylists.

This organization checks all of the desired boxes: rapid growth, big-name investors, and a brand presence that continues to expand. This company is different from your average Silicon Valley venture – it’s Black owned and a large number of employees here are people of color. Mayvenn’s Oakland-based team consists of about 46% women and almost half of them are Black.

As with most blessings, I didn’t realize how much this mattered to me. I was used to navigating meetings and shaking hands, code-switching when it made sense, and elevating the pitch of my “let me speak to your manager” voice when it mattered most. To come into an office where people not only looked and sounded like me, but were making the best moves? It was inexplicable.

It’s one thing to be seen in hallways or during an occasional break room chat, but to be truly heard—well, that’s still revolutionary. I’ve been a writer for years, but it wasn’t until I felt seen, listened to, and supported that I realized how much my voice mattered. The combination of our life’s experiences, innate grit, intellect, humor and work ethic, all matters. 

Recognizing the importance of employees of color means that you’re on the right side of history. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does begin with a single decision before it begets action. The time is now, whether you’re in the side hustle stages of a business or just finishing a $23 million series B round.

For your employees of color, inclusivity may include simple things, like a coworker finally understanding the implications of “wash day.” Or it may be more serious, like a manager understanding why the mood is more somber on days where yet another unarmed person of color is shot and killed by police.

Whether big or small, quietly minor or wholly obvious, this type of inclusion matters and it stands to make your company that much stronger and more competitive. As I said, I may be a bit biased. I’m a Black woman who finally knows first hand what authentic, intentional inclusion in the tech industry feels like. I can promise you that hearing Frankie Beverly & Maze during an in-house photo shoot is a whole entire vibe. Plus, I may or may not have been inspired to start a mini-electric slide on the way back to my desk.

Uber Partners With Bay Area Tech Training Programs

Uber has partnered with several organizations in San Francisco to help increase access to high-quality jobs.

The ride-sharing giant–announced in a blog post–its plans to commit $100,000 to nonprofits <dev/Mission>, Code Tenderloin, and Opportunities for All in an effort to train the next generation of technologists.

In addition to the donation, the company will provide office space and offer volunteer time for employees to work with students on coding and interview skills.

“The donations build on long-standing relationships we’ve established with each of these groups that date back to their founding days,” the company said.

<dev/Mission> will use the grant to add 30 students and 10 new internships to the program. Code Tenderloin will add over 50 students to its Job Readiness Class and Coding program, which teaches students how to build a resume and prepares them to interview.

Opportunities for All, an initiative led by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to expand access to youth employment, will bring additional interns into their program.

IBM Releases Dataset to Help Reduce Bias in Facial Recognition Systems

IBM wants to make facial recognition systems more fair and accurate.

The company just released a research paper along with a substantial dataset of 1 million images with intrinsic facial features including facial symmetry, skin color, age, and gender.

The tech giant hopes to use the Diversity in Faces (DiF) dataset to advance the study of diversity in facial recognition and further aid the development of the technology.

“Face recognition is a long-standing challenge in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI),” the authors of the paper wrote. “However, with recent advances in neural networks, face recognition has achieved unprecedented accuracy, built largely on data-driven deep learning methods.”

Lead scientist at IBM, John Smith told CNBC that many prominent datasets lack balance and coverage of facial images.

“In order for the technology to advance it needs to be built on diverse training data,” he said. “The data does not reflect the faces we see in the world.”

Bias in facial recognition technology is an ongoing issue in the industry and tech companies are starting to take steps to address the problem. In December, Microsoft president, Brad Smith, wrote a company blog post outlining risks and potential abuses of facial recognition technology, including privacy, democratic freedoms, and discrimination.

The company also wrote that it is calling for new laws that regulate artificial intelligence software to prevent bias.

Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the M.I.T. Media Lab, researched how biases affect artificial intelligence and found the technology misidentified the gender of darker-skinned women 35 percent of the time.

“You can’t have ethical A.I. that’s not inclusive,” Buolamwini said in the New York Times. “And whoever is creating the technology is setting the standards.”

IBM’s Diversity in Faces dataset is available to the public and researchers are urging others to build on this work.

“We selected a solid starting point by using one million publicly available face images and by implementing ten facial coding schemes,” they wrote in the paper. “We hope that others will find ways to grow the data set to include more faces.”

Harley-Davidson Vet Is Now Under Armour’s Head of HR

Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic wear company, has announced industry veteran Tchernavia Rocker as its new Chief People and Culture Officer. Rocker will oversee the company’s entire human resources operation.

Rocker spent nearly 20 years as a human resources executive at Harley-Davidson and led the company’s strategic plans on organizational effectiveness, employee value proposition and experience. Prior to her time with Harley-Davidson, Rocker served in HR and operations roles at Goodyear Dunlop North America Tire Inc.

“Under Armour is designed for resilience and over the past two years, our global team has worked tirelessly to transform our business – operationally, strategically and culturally,” Under Armour Chairman and CEO Kevin Plank said in a press release.

The position comes after the company was criticized for its lack of gender diversity in a scathing a report by the Wall Street Journal that cited behavior at the company that women employees found demeaning.

Rocker has committed most of her career to focusing on Human Resources. She is also a member of HR Policy Institute, the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Black MBA Association.

Rocker will begin her position at Under Armour in February.

 

/dev/color Is Bringing In Its Largest Cohort of Black Engineers Ever

Tech nonprofit /dev/color just announced the induction of the largest “Squad” of Black engineers into their community, growing its membership from 225 to 370. They have also unveiled plans to operate cohorts in two new cities this year.

/dev/color convenes a visible force of Black software engineers to uplift and empower one another within the overwhelmingly white tech industry. Nearly four years old, the organization began with just 11 members in San Francisco, and now has chapters in Atlanta, Seattle, and New York City.

Their flagship A* program offers professional engineers a year-long membership including monthly meetings with peer groups (called “Squads”), access to exclusive events, and tools to design an individualized career roadmap.

“It’s rare for folks to take retention into their own hands,” said Lajuanda Asemota, Interim Executive Director of /dev/color. “It’s not just learning and development opportunities that keep people at companies and in the industry. It’s also their sense of belonging and sense of confidence.”

The conversations around tech diversity often centers the acknowledgment that the industry is made up of nearly 8 percent Black workers and recruitment strategies (or lack thereof) have failed to address this gross underrepresentation, though numerous organizations are working to remedy these faults.

Changing the narrative around diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of /dev/color’s work to ensure these connections exist beyond this organization.

The nonprofit reports that as a result of its A* Program, over 70 percent of members received an increase in compensation in 2017. Of that, 34 percent received a salary increase of 15 percent or more. 

“We’re contributing to intergenerational wealth and community growth,” said Asemota. “Folks are able to achieve their goals and grow their careers.”

Black tech workers are the lowest paid in the tech sector, according to a 2018 report from Hired. Across the industry, Black employees are paid the least at $130,000, an average of $6,000 less than their white counterparts.

The Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found that Black women are asking for promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, but are not getting the same outcomes.

“The diversity in tech conversation has gotten a little bit repetitive,” said Asemota. “I’m really hopeful that people will capitalize on the history of the work, and really think critically about how to do things creatively that will actually have an impact.”

Techstars’ Startup Weekend in New York Will Focus On Diverse Talent

Accelerator program Techstars is bringing underrepresented tech talent together for a weekend of brainstorming and prototyping in New York City.

Techstars Startup Weekend is a 54-hour long event for participants of diverse backgrounds to form teams and pitch new business ideas to a panel of judges from the startup and VC industry.

Startup Weekend organizers are using the weekend to create a space for women and minority innovators to access resources in the startup world. Through targeting this underrepresented audience, Techstars hopes to address the gaps in funding and opportunity in tech.

“Once we bring everyone together and they get to work, we have no doubt that the outcome will be a display of capable and qualified entrepreneurs of all types– with ideas that can shape tomorrow,” they wrote on the event site.

Last month, the accelerator announced its partnership with digitalundivided—an entrepreneurship incubator for Black and Latinx women founders—to increase support for women entrepreneurs.

Digitalundivided’s groundbreaking ProjectDiane2018 report shows Black women-led startups have raised $289 million in venture capital funding since 2009, while Latinx-owned startups led by women raised a total of $1.36 billion in venture capital funding.

This accounts for .0006 percent and 0.32 percent of the $424.7 billion in total venture funding raised since 2009.

Startup Weekend will feature speakers like Jason Leder, Head of VC & Startup Partnerships at Google and Marcia Mitchell Partner Operations Manager at ff Venture Capital. Participants will also work alongside mentors to help develop ideas.

First place teams will have an opportunity to be interviewed for a series on Entrepreneur.com.

Get full event details and purchase a ticket to claim your spot.

How Stripe’s Valerie Williams Thinks About Diversity and Inclusion

The pipeline problem in tech is a myth, and while the issue of diversity and inclusion garners plenty of attention, tech giants—and the industry overall—make small strides towards progress as reports show modest or stalled growth.

D&I tech executive Valerie Williams says, “It’s not that hard.”

“When people talk about the pipeline problem, they don’t look at the nontechnical roles within the industry,” said Williams, the current global head of diversity and inclusion of Stripe, an online payment software company. “It seems to be a cop out when they say they can’t find talented people of color.”

A study released last year by Glassdoor found nearly half (43 percent) of open roles at tech companies are non-technical. However, countless diversity reports reveal tech companies are still struggling to find and retain diverse talent.  

Williams, who has a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from Emory, has long been a champion of diversity and inclusion. She began her career at Hewlett-Packard (HP) where she worked in supply chain and helped minority business owners acquire contracts before redirecting her career towards her true passion—investing in human capital.

“With my work in supplier diversity, I found myself spending a lot of time with the people who didn’t get those contracts awarded to them—like women and people of color,” she recalled. “I wanted to help those who had been locked outside of the industry.”

In her current role at Stripe, Williams thinks about diversity and inclusion on a global scale. While some of her efforts focus on internal diversity initiatives like recruiting and employee resource groups, her external diversity projects include leveraging Stripe’s Atlas program to create more underrepresented entrepreneurs worldwide.

“Global economic access for underrepresented communities is the right move for the discussion in the industry when you think about long term impact,” she said on building Atlas–a platform making it easy for entrepreneurs everywhere to start an online business. “We can give people the tools to create wealth for themselves.”

Williams consulted on technical recruiting at Google and created talent search strategies at Russell Reynolds Associates before landing a gig as a recruiter for Airbnb in 2015.

Williams worked to make sure people felt welcomed internally. She also addressed diversity challenges on the platform. For instance, in 2015 a report showed guests with “black-sounding” names seeking rentals faced “widespread discrimination.” 

 

A 2014 analysis of some of the country’s biggest tech giants by USA Today found that people of color are grossly underrepresented in non-technical roles such as sales and administration. Glassdoor predicts the demand for non-tech workers will increase in 2019.  

“As the tech industry matures, employers will look to hire robust sales and marketing teams to transform technology into revenue,” Glassdoor wrote in their annual job market trends report.

Williams recalls this time, and the other moments that started the first rumblings of the now well documented problems most tech companies have tackling diversity internally. 

“At the industry level, we’re all facing the same issues. There needs to be more industry-wide collaboration among people who are working on issues of diversity,” she said.

Though Stripe hasn’t publicly released their diversity data yet, Williams continues to work with managers to help them build a relationship with candidates long before they step inside the office for an interview. 

“I try to get leaders to understand that hiring is an exercise of risk and that you have to put the investment in upfront and really show that you care,” she said, recommending managers organize gatherings like small dinners to get to know potential talent. 

“Yes, we can have a program,” she said. “But if we can strengthen our empathy skills, a lot of this work would not be necessary.”

Black Women Raise Wants To Build a Community for Black Women Founders

The story of Black women founders is all too familiar.

Despite being the fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs, the median amount of funding raised by Black women is $0, according to digitalundivided. Overall, Black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.

Entrepreneur Dee Poku Spalding wants to reframe this narrative.

She launched the inaugural Black Women Raise symposium last Friday convening Black female founders and business leaders committed to addressing the ability to raise growth capital, scale up and create pathways for the women behind them.

“Yes, we encounter barriers but despite that, we are strongly innovating in our fields and building incredible businesses that compete comfortably in the marketplace,” she said in a statement.

The event served a dual purpose of providing founders with practical resources and an open forum for voicing frustrations.

Founders participating in the program included Marah Lidey, founder of Shine Text, a messaging app helping young people achieve self-care, and Jewel Burk, founder of Amazon acquired tech company PartPic.

Programming also included a panel discussion on insights from investors like Charles Hudson, founder, and managing partner of Precursor Ventures, and Sutian Dong, a partner at Female Founders Fund.

“Are Black women fundamentally higher-risk investments?” asked Asmau Ahmed, founder of Plum Perfect and SVP at Bank of America, during a panel titled “Understanding The Investor Mindset.”

Poku Spalding is not new to helping create opportunities for women. She is also the founder of Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Network, a network designed to create a community for women in the workplace.

“I wanted to build the type of strong community and network around this group that other founders get to take for granted,” she said.

Black women who raised less than $1 million in 2017, raised an average of $42,000. On average, 39 percent of venture capital deals at the Series A stage were $25 million or larger in 2017, according to Pitchbook.