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Changing the Face of Tech: African Americans Are Beating the Odds

In the tech industry, speed, agility, and openness to change are all desirable qualities. Leaders of high-tech companies pride themselves on their ability to adapt and keep up with constantly evolving priorities, competitors, and market demands.

And yet, tech has been notoriously slow to make progress in one important area: diversity. According to research published in a recent USA Today article, only 3% to 6% of Silicon Valley tech workers are black or Hispanic, and 1% or less are women of color. Less than 5% of employees at Twitter, Google, and Facebook identify as black.

The race gap in tech is vast and persistent. Because the imbalance is influenced by complex reasons such as negative racial stereotypes and closely guarded business networks, it can be challenging to address.

But tech leaders can and must work to improve diversity on their teams. A new survey commissioned by York Solutions found that 87% of IT leaders believe improving diversity within IT departments is important, and 65% say it is very or extremely important. And companies that prioritize diversity benefit in tangible ways – not only strengthening their teams with multiple different perspectives and experiences, but also gaining a competitive advantage in terms of profitability and performance.

Regardless of the obstacles they face, black tech leaders are already driving innovation within their companies and working to improve diversity within the industry. Here are just a few who continue to move tech forward.

Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code (BGC)

Since Bryant launched BGC in 2011, it has introduced more than 8,000 girls to computer science. By 2040, Bryant aims to reach 1 million girls. She writes on the BGC website: “By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

Arquay Harris, Director of Engineering, Growth at Slack

Before she joined Slack in 2016, Harris worked as a web development manager at Google and director of engineering at CBS Interactive. Harris led the redesign of the Slack platform, helping the company scale and attract more paid users.

Craig Cuffie, Senior Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer,

Cuffie has nearly two decades of experience in aerospace and high-tech companies. At Salesforce, his role involves data center fulfillment, shared services, procurement, and direct and indirect sourcing. Cuffie and his team manage $3.5 billion of procurement spend, as the company aims for its revenue growth goal of more than $20 billion.

Tammarrian Rogers, Director Of Engineering, Snap

Rogers joined Snap after a 20-year career at Microsoft. At Snap, she manages teams responsible for the final experience and stability of the Snapchat app, including quality assurance, release management, localization, and IT. She is also one of the engineering leads on Snap’s cross-functional Android stability initiative.

Arthur P. Johnson Jr., Vice President, Corporate Development and Strategic Planning, Pure Storage Inc.

Johnson oversees corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions activities for a data storage company that generated more than $1 billion in FY 2018 revenues. Before working at Pure Storage, Johnson had leadership roles at Twilio, Cisco WebEx, Intuit, and Hewlett Packard.

Download York Solutions’ white paper, Addressing Diversity Boosts Competitive Advantage for IT Companies.