Report Confirms the U.S. Tech Ecosystem Is Still Failing Black Communities
The 2022 State of Tech Diversity report by the Kapor Center and the NAACP breaks down disparities across the tech industry, from K-12 and post-secondary academic institutions, to recruiting, hiring, retention, and VC funding.
Today, the Kapor Center, a nonprofit addressing racial inequities in STEM education and the tech industry, in partnership with the NAACP, released their 2022 report titled State of Tech Diversity: The Black Tech Ecosystem. The report analyzes and synthesizes the latest data, demonstrating the continual exclusion of Black talent across the tech ecosystem, which represents a great loss of talent and innovation for one of the major drivers of our nation’s economy.
The report findings reveal that progress towards racial equity is not only stalled, but in many respects, regressing, throughout each phase of the tech pipeline. Black students lack access to broadband, introductory and advanced computer science (CS) courses, highly qualified teachers from diverse backgrounds, and culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum needed to enter the computing pipeline at the same rates as their white and Asian peers. Despite comprising 15% of the K-12 population, Black students comprise just 6% of students taking advanced placement CS.
These inequities continue to persist in traditional institutions of higher education, as well as alternative educational pathways, impacting opportunities for Black students. In 2020, only 8% of Bachelor’s degrees conferred in CS were earned by Black graduates, a decrease since 2016. While Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) produce 10% of all Black CS Bachelor’s degree earners, and community colleges produce 35% of all Black undergraduate CS degree earners (across 2- and 4-year colleges), both types of institutions are underfunded and under-resourced. Meanwhile, alternative pathways, like tech bootcamps and apprenticeships, have emerged as a strategy to expand the diversity of the tech pipeline, yet traditional problems of anti-blackness, exclusion, and inequitable outcomes for Black talent have been replicated in these pathways.
“The NAACP believes that diversity in tech is a modern civil rights issue, and we cannot afford to be indifferent to the unsettling statistics presented in this report.” said Dr. Ivory Toldson, Director of Education Innovation and Research at NAACP. “But more importantly, the call to action and recommendations in the report provide a compelling case for a comprehensive, cradle-to-career, approach to increasing the number and capacity of Black people in tech.”
Despite the lucrative benefits tech companies receive through public tax dollars, federal investments and contracts in research and product development, and state and local tax breaks, the industry does not reflect nor support all communities across the nation. While Black talent represents 13% of the labor force, tech company board representation remains stagnant at 3%, at 4% in executive leadership roles, and at 3.6% in technical roles in the largest U.S.-based tech companies. This percentage has barely budged, despite a decade of focus on tech diversity, pledges, and commitments, significantly restricting inclusive product creation and economic mobility. In venture capital, a chasm persists between stated commitments to equity and funding trends – with only 1.3% of the nearly $290B in funding this past year going to Black-founded companies and just 222 of the 11,790 companies receiving venture capital investment were Black-founded.
“The consequences of inaction in the tech industry are significant for Black communities,” said Dr. Allison Scott, CEO of the Kapor Center. “Technological advancement continues to drive our economy and transform the nature of work, and the exclusion of Black talent from this sector impacts innovation, product creation, economic mobility, and is a significant driver of inequality. One-off solutions have not worked. It is time to invest in long-term structural solutions.”
Based upon the inequities documented, from educational access in K-12 and post-secondary institutions, to Big Tech’s hiring practices and an exclusionary venture ecosystem, the report authors are calling for significant reforms, including: increased access to rigorous and culturally responsive computer science courses; development of educator professional development programs and certifications; public and private investments in community colleges, HBCUs, and alternative pathways; removal of exclusionary barriers in recruitment, hiring, and investing; increased transparency in salary bands and promotion paths across companies and VC firms; external accountability mechanisms through public agencies to ensure equitable employment practices, fair pay, and protection from harassment and discrimination.
Upon the release of the report, Toldson adds: “As the National Director of Education Innovation and Research for the NAACP, I am calling upon our 2 million members and supporters representing over 2,200 units to use this report to push racial equity in tech within your sphere of influence.” The full report is available at kaporcenter.org/blacktechecosystem.
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