When it comes to the lack of Blacks and other minorities in the tech industry and start-ups, many people look to leaders in Silicon Valley for answers to increasing diversity. But, this may be wishful thinking.
It’s like people complaining to Hollywood film makers and television producers to create more films that are inclusive and reflective of our society by including Blacks and other minorities in major roles. There have been minor attempts at change but not much.
Of course people like, Tyler Perry, are trying to change that. Say what you will about his films and television shows, but they’re profitable and put a lot of Black actors to work.
Fortunately there are equivalents of Tyler Perry in the tech industry, folks who aren’t waiting for Silicon Valley to help out minorities. They’re putting events in motion to create the change they want to see. For example, programs such as Black Girls Code, The Hidden Genius Project, and NewMe Accelerator.
Greg Greenlee, founder of Blacks in Technology(BIT), is also one of these people. He created BIT to change the attitudes of Blacks with regards to technology and to bring together the Black talent he knew existed in a place where they can network. In addition, it’s a resource for mentoring young and upcoming talent.
BIT provides a variety of networking and information resources. It has its own social network, BITNET, and forums. Members can also engage in live chats. Visitors can listen to podcast or view videos that include interviews with professionals in the tech industry talking about topics such as cloud computing, mobile application development, security and start-ups.
When asked about the problems of how to unify the Black talent in the tech field Greenlee says, “it’s being over shadowed by the fact that we are mainly consumers or being portrayed as such. Yes, that is the tricky part.”
“The image has to change though. Once the picture of Black technologist is more common than it is a rarity, then I think we will achieve greater things. There is some phenomenal talent out there.”
The Next Generation
BIT has a potentially crucial role for kids who are interested in getting into electronics, engineering, computer science, etc. Blacks, and other minorities, in urban neighborhoods don’t always have the greatest support when it comes to pursing interest in STEM fields.
Spending your time building computers, coding or reading articles in tech magazines will definitely land you in the nerd camp. These kids can feel isolated.
With BIT, they can go online and connect with other kids like themselves all over the country. They’ll also get career advice and technology tips from professionals already in the field.
“Once I figure out how to get into High Schools and colleges,” says Greenlee, “it’s really going to skyrocket. Because, now they have a place to come to for advice, knowledge, etc.”
BIT is getting close to launching an online technology magazine, Tech Digest. But, it won’t be for the casual techie. It will be for the more advanced guys and gals who like to talk Linux, develop open source software, maintain networks and servers, etc. This magazine won’t be devoted to covering rumors on what features will be in the next iPhone or Android phone.
Greenlee says, “I’m looking to talk about ‘tech’ tech – the building blocks of it as well as the implementation of it – not just the use or the consuming of it via games and what not.”
This focus on the technology used to create products and solutions reflects Greg’s goal of changing the way Blacks view technology. He says, “My belief is we have to change the mindset, not just within our culture but everywhere. People talk about Silicon Valley not giving us a chance.”
“We need to make our own way. We need to be unified. We need to start talking at a deeper level about tech. And, that’s my motivation behind doing this site and the Tech Digest site.”
Greg is also planning on creating an online video technology show that would cover the latest tech news, tips and how to videos. So, Greenlee has his hands full for the near future.
“Don’t tell my wife that,” Greg says, laughing. “She already thinks I spend too much time on my computers.”