AfroTech networking conference returns to Austin
A major conference aimed at promoting Black professionals in the tech sector kicks off Wednesday in Austin.
Details: Sessions at this year's conference, at the Austin Convention Center, include "Innovations, Patents and Black Excellence," "Ensuring Longevity for Men of Color" and "Centering Black Travelers through Technology."
- Speakers include actress, producer and writer Issa Rae; producer, artist and entrepreneur Timbaland; and TIME chief marketing officer Sade Muhammad.
Flashback: When the conference launched in 2016, "We were hearing that there are no Black professionals to hire," Simone White, a senior vice president for AfroTech, tells Axios.
- "So part of our mission is to debunk that idea, that there are no Black engineers and product managers," she says.
What they're saying: Now, conference themes have gone further.
- "We have an issue with diverse leadership, about how to make it a core principle instead of an afterthought or something forced to do because someone has called them out on Twitter," White says of tech companies.
- Retention is another theme. "How do you foster a community that holds onto workers? How do you really build teams that are truly diverse?"
The intrigue: The conference comes during a wider downturn in the sector.
Yes, but: Some signs suggest the tech sector has already reached its layoffs peak.
- And more than a hundred organizations — from Microsoft to the FBI — are "all utilizing the AfroTech Conference to support DEI commitments," per a conference press release.
Catching our eye: The "Black Future Newsstand," which imagines a future with a thriving Black-owned media landscape that "reflects the wholeness of Black experiences," Diamond Hardiman, reparative journalism program manager at Media 2070, which examines how the media can serve as a lever for racial justice, tells Axios.
- "We want Black folks to be able to own and control their stories, from ideation through distribution," Hardiman said.
- You can visit the newsstand at the Center for Cultural Power's Mixed Media Mixer Art Show, at Speakeasy on 412 Congress Ave. from 4-8pm Thursday.
Plus: At a makers market starting Friday, more than two dozen local Black-owned businesses will sell their wares at Republic Square Park.
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