Black Women Talk IT was founded by Regina Gwynn when she recognized the need for a platform where Black women in the tech industry could be seen, heard, and inspired.
The first Roadmap to Billions event was held by Black Women Talk Tech in 2017 to provide funding, education, and motivation. Black Women Talk Tech enables women to put their attention on themselves.
Support continues following the 6th annual Roadmap to Billions, which was held from June 15-17, 2022. According to Regina, the goal is to continue the roadmap discussion throughout the year and continue highlighting key information. Below, she explains how she founded Black Women Talk IT, what the organization's future holds, and how businesses can help Black women in the tech industry.
On deciding to start Black Women Talk Tech, and how past experiences affected her choice:
When I first met Lauren Washington and Esosa Ighodaro in 2015, the conversation began. We were all starting tech businesses and interacting with the industry. Despite my lack of technical expertise, I had a great idea. As I started working in the field, I was invited to conferences and private gatherings where I was sometimes the only woman of color. I was glad to see another Black woman when I first met Esosa.
When it came to locating the appropriate resources, people to speak with, mentors, etc., our situations were remarkably similar. We made the decision to have our first conference in 2017 after realizing there are other women who share our viewpoint. For our two-week event in our first year, hundreds of people registered. Since then, the surge of interest, support, and demand has fuelled Black Women Talk Tech.
On why there are so few Black women working in technology:
Only 3% of the workforce in math and computing in 2019 was Black. However, degrees, capabilities, skills, and experience are not deciding considerations in hiring.
With degrees in computer science, engineering, biomedical engineering, and civil engineering, we have many college grads and graduate students. Contrary to what many businesses claim, there is no pipeline problem. It's untrue, and it’s not pertinent. What is critical is for candidates to fit culturally. More education is required to help people successfully navigate the hiring process.
The next issue after successfully hiring someone and offering them a job is keeping them. The lack of sponsors, mentors, and support networks causes a lot of turnover in the software industry. In high-energy, quick-paced workplaces, where people are frequently not encouraged to be themselves, microaggressions are amplified. Much work needs to be done before we can show we value a diverse workforce.
On which sectors of IT are showing the most development:
Since George Floyd's passing, there have been numerous racial equity announcements, projects, donations, and reckonings. Although more Black and Brown founders are receiving funding, only 6% of venture funding goes to them compared to 4% before George Floyd. It's impossible to determine what is growing or a bright spot because it's less than 1 percent, which is terrible. I'll say it since we are now witnessing the fruition of this critical mass. Calendly is run by a Black man in Atlanta. City Health is a biotech company run by a black woman. $1 billion startups. More black and brown people than ever before are founding unicorns. That's great.
On how Black women can be better represented in tech industries:
Meaningful debate is required regarding diversity, varied teams, equity, and inclusion. As long as we can't be honest about what it means for your organization and how much clout you're ready to give it—i.e., performance reviews, KPIs, bonuses—it will remain a hollow gesture. Till everyone in a department is responsible for them, top-level initiatives won't mean anything to day-to-day workers.
On how can schools motivate girls to pursue technical careers:
I wish I had started my IT business sooner. I didn't want to run a firm in IT, though. At career days, which typically include a doctor, lawyer, teacher, and accountant, I'd like to see more engineers and scientists. To say, "Wow, this is my neighbor down the street, not someone inaccessible," you must personally know them. When this allusion is made early and frequently, it has an effect on young people.
On what has changed in the Roadmap to Billions Conference since its inception six years ago:
At first, we had no idea [laughs]. It wasn't much compared to now. We no longer post once a day, but rather twice. Initially concentrating on founders, we now provide services to investors, job seekers, technicians, and founders. We'll be holding Black Men Talk Tech in Miami in October. Everything has gotten better, which is great because we've kept true to our mission of offering a genuine experience based on our own adventures while expanding to meet demand. First and first, we must be founders since it is what motivated us to succeed.
On what she hopes for Black Women Talk Tech's future:
Much lies in the future. Although we have focused on the United States, entrepreneurship exists everywhere. We'll host the inaugural London Roadmap to Billions in October. Our conference draws attendees from London, West Africa, South Africa, etc. We can meet a demand from abroad here, therefore we'll begin allocating resources.