Mar 29, 2022 - Economy

Report: Tech still failing Black communities

Illustration of five hand cursors, four are white, one is black.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

U.S. schools, companies and investors are still failing to create equity for Black students and workers, particularly when it comes to computer science education and tech skills and jobs, a new report shows. 

Why it matters: Failure to fix systemic problems within the tech pipeline and sector threaten to further exacerbate social and economic gaps Black Americans have been facing. 

State of play: The tech sector has become an increasingly important driver of economic growth and personal wealth, especially as the pandemic accelerated the world’s dependency on digital services, the Kapor Center and the NAACP write in their report out today

  • However, “progress towards racial equity has not only stalled but, in many respects, has been regressing throughout each phase of the tech pipeline,” the joint study concludes.
  • The issues can be traced back to schools, where Black students lack not only access to computer science courses, but also highly qualified teachers from culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as tailored classes to promote entry into science and technology fields at the same rates as students from white and Asian backgrounds, says the report.

Further down the pipeline: Nearly 25% of Black students still lack access to computers or reliable high-speed internet in their homes, according to the report's findings.

  • Only 8% of Bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2020 in computer science were earned by Black graduates, a decrease from 9% in 2016. 
  • As an industry, tech produced only a 1% increase in Black representation within technical roles at large tech companies, while nearly half of Black technologists reported experiencing racial inequality in getting hired, promoted and in their compensation.
  • And despite the record amount of money raised by startups during the pandemic, Black founders received just 1% of the capital deployed between February 2020 and February 2021.

What they’re saying: “There are very real economic consequences for Black communities, including lack of access to high-growth, high-wage jobs; risk of job displacement due to automation; and inability to create wealth through entrepreneurship and investment,” Allison Scott, Kapor Center CEO, said in the report.

The bigger picture: Leaving Black students and workers out of tech education and progress hampers efforts to build more accurate technology, including facial recognition software, algorithms that dictate financial access, health services and political tools

What to watch: How much public pressure will inspire faster change. 

  • A vast majority of Americans view diversity in the workplace as important — especially among the younger, newer and more empowered workforce that is less tolerant of companies making little progress.
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