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Black Women in Tech

You'll often here industry leaders cry ‘more must be done’ to advance Black women in tech, while trade associations are saying ‘they are desperately needed’ echoing this lack of representation and diversity of talent in the fastest growing and highest paid jobs of the future.

Black women continue to be underrepresented in the tech industry, holding 2% of computing roles, compared to 27% for women overall.

Where Are The Black Women in Tech? What's The Problem?

According to GTA Black Women in Tech, the low visibility of Black women in tech means it’s not considered an option for many young women to choose careers in the technogology sector when they don’t (or can't) see role models in the industry to aspire to. 

Black women of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce are fed up with hiding behind ‘Photoshop’ diversity initiatives; and more disturbingly, the intersectional leaky pipeline.

According to a joint report by campaigners and a representative body ;-

  • Data collected from the Office of National Statistics, the authors of the Coding Black Females (CBF) and BCS (British Computer Society) report found that black women made up 1.8% of the UK workforce, but only 0.7% of those working in technology.

  • An extra 20,000 black women would need to be recruited in addition to the 12,000 already working in IT just to fill the current gap.

  • An interesting comparator is the number for those of Indian background, whose representation in the IT workforce runs at between 8% and 9% against a general workforce representation of only 3%.

  • Splitting ethnicities shows that the general situation can be improved. In 2020 and 2021, according to the ONS, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British people had a 2% representation in the IT industry against 3% in the workforce as a whole. This improved to parity in 2022, but, whilst this is another positive, it is weighted toward black men. Source : BCS analysis of ONS figures.

What’s Happening?

It’s widely known that careers in STEM are central to the future. However Black women still remain under-represented in most of these fields.

Two of the most common reasons mentioned for under-representation is:

  1. A lack of role models to inspire a career in STEM and

  2. Overcoming deliberating predispositions in the workplace once there.

‘There are specific microaggressions that many Black women face due to the intersection of blackness and womanhood,’ said one responder, BCS

An interesting emerging fact.

Instead of levelling the playing field for Black women in STEM, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seen to be one of the key issues that is displaying bias not only against genders but different ethnicities.

African american engineer using laptop to maintenance artificial intelligence neural networks made up of interconnected nodes layers ,aiding in processing and transmitting information

This has been blamed on coders being rich, pale, mostly male and at the top of their sector, or in the words of Paulette Watson, Author of She Disrupts, it's a reflection of the pervasive 'tech bro' culture, inflexible work conditions and inadequate career support.

So what's going on here?

Young People

If you are coming from a ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘low income’ background, opportunities to access STEM pathways are still quite slim.

Add bias, structural gender and racial stereotypical assumptions displayed by education professionals, tend to push black women away, rather than towards, a career in STEM.

Young Black women often do not have access to the extra-curricular clubs, mentorships and communities that allow them to engage with STEM opportunities.

Added to that, they find it difficult to access internships, apprenticeships, scholarships and financial resources which limits their access, preparation and opportunities for a future career in the sector.

Black students in science class in school

Akua Opong our Spotlight champion is a Senior Analyst at the London Stock Exchange Group's Corporate Technology team; where she excels in mentoring and guiding colleagues through their career; advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion and mental health awareness.


Passionate about fostering talent and visibility, she serves as a STEM Ambassador and community lead for LSEG's Women's Inspired Network. As a neurodiversity champion, she ensures an inclusive environment for all employees.

Now women have made it to the workplace, what next?

Invisibility in the Workplace

It’s not all negative. There are organisations striving to make change through their diversity and inclusion policies, but the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on not only ethnic minority groups, it compounded Black women further.

When we talk about ‘double jeopardy’ it’s not the game show. We are talking about Black women who are working across the dual identity of race and gender within education and the workplace.

Don’t hate on me, but if you get the token spot as the most senior Black women in the industry, get used to being the only one in the room. And that is only if you are embraced by the 'tech bro' gang who ‘failed up’.

Isolation is no joking matter for these women when working in often unsupportive or hostile environments. They feel they are unable to bring their authentic self to the organisation and hide behind different personas to manage.

Then to make matters worse there is a prevailing lack of an inclusive working culture, what with lower pay and limited flexibility in their working options e.g. no part-time or flexible options.

Likelihood to be in a position of responsibility, measured by use of terms ‘manager’, ‘team leader’, ‘director’. Source : BCS analysis of ONS figures.

Did we forget that they are often combating subtle forms of racial microaggressions and harassment in often unsupportive environments has a major impact on not only the experience of the Black woman in the workplace but her career trajectory within the organisation.

Should Black women give up?

That's Your Decision...

Looking critically at the state of Black women, the pandemic has shown a greater need for companies to promote mindfulness and trauma-informed practices to support Black women facing feelings of systematic exclusion.

Instead of pushing Black women out of STEM, senior leaders need to demonstrate by their actions that they will have equitable recruitment practices, institutional support and progression practices in place.

Globally, Black women in STEM are not hiding the challenges of working in the sector. They are making it a priority to use their platforms to eliminate barriers; speak out against bias, prepare and ensure more young girls and women are able to advocate this career.

Support networks play a vital role in addressing the challenges faced by black women in the technology sector. Professionals like Lori Mitchell, founder of Black Women in Technology (BWIT), have leveraged their high-profile networks to support black women in their tech endeavours.

BWIT provides a platform where black women can flourish and make impactful contributions to the industry.

Similarly, initiatives like Coding Black Females focus on creating and fostering supportive communities and networks, allowing Black women in tech to share experiences, access mentorship, and advocate for change.

These support networks not only offer valuable resources but also serve as spaces for empowerment and collaboration, helping to address systemic barriers and promote diversity and inclusion within the tech industry.

Back to the report.....

A snapshot of recommendations made include: -

  • Removing the assumption that they are under-qualified and lack the competence and aptitude to succeed

  • Reviewing the interview and recruitment practices must be more inclusive

  • Understanding a diverse, open culture goes beyond diversity policy

  • Leadership should set an example

If companies are serious about wanting better outcomes, without challenging these disparities it will only mean they are missing out on the diversity and innovation of thought and problem-solving performance.

Finally, we know by diversifying the STEM sector, the whole ecosystem benefits. So, it is fair to say that organisations will continue to struggle to attract and retain Black women in STEM unless essential changes are made and initiatives are introduced on how we educate and support them in the workplace. I am proud to say that NBWN is here to help them do just that. Join us. #YouBelongHere


If you enjoyed this article, I'd love to know what you think. Do you work in the STEM sector? How do you see the representation of Black women in your own organisation? What initiatives have you seen that worked, or didn't work, well? What do you think can be done to increase the number of women in STEM? Is the industry missing a trick? Let me know in the comments below.

Incidentally, if you're interested in reading the whole report, you can download it here.

If you do work in the STEM field, then you can join our TechnologyTalk group on SistaTalk where you can discuss this topic and more with those who share your interests and passions. Just click the image below, sign-up (if you haven't already) and join the conversation today.

NBWN SistaTalk TechnologyTalk Group

Please also consider connecting with us and expanding our network through your own via our social media channels, all the links are below and don't forget to use the hashtag #YouBelongHere


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