Blacks in Tech; Mind The Gap

Thursday, 17 December 2015 17:45 Written by  Published in Opinion Read 2423 times
In January 2015, Google reported that African Americans make up only 2% of their workforce.

Google has over 50,000 employees worldwide.  For technical roles, only 1% of Google’s workforce is black while for leadership roles, Blacks represent only 2%.   Google is not alone with these weak numbers. Only 1% of Facebook’s employee base is Black. The numbers for other well know tech giants are as follows; Twitter (2%), Microsoft (3%), Intel (4%), Apple (8%) and Amazon with a respectable 15% of their employees being black.  

The numbers become even more of a concern when we look at the leadership numbers. While 15% of Amazon’s employees are Black, only 1% is in leadership. Between Google (4%), Twitter (0%), Microsoft (1%), Apple (2%) and Intel (3%), we see anemic representation at the Executive and Management levels.  

These numbers are particularly troubling as the industry thought leaders project that Canada is a facing a shortage of 182,000 jobs in Information Technology. How can the Black Community overcome these numbers and become major players in the Information Technology sector?  

First, we have to address education. While is it important that our educational experiences are diverse, we must ensure that more young people are pursing post-secondary degrees and diplomas in math, computer science and business. Many Information Technology firms have used the lack of “education” as an excuse for not hiring Blacks. 

Unfortunately, there needs to be more data regarding the type of diplomas and degrees that we pursue.  Most of the community colleges in Ontario have certification and training programs in the information technology sector. Statistics do show that Black Canadians tend to attend community colleges at a higher rate of than the rest of the population.     Education also means understanding the market for Information Technology skills and how it applies to an array of industries for today’s professionals, not just youth.  

For example, a warehouse that used to employ 25 general labourers could now require only 5 by enabling a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that is integrated with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Someone needs to know how to market, sell, deploy, configure, manage and support these systems. The information technology is not only about bits and bytes, it is now about business. Whether one aims to become a CFO, Plant Manager or Vice President of Human Resources – technology will continue to transform business processes at a rapid rate.  

Many Black Canadians are employed in the not-for-profit sector. Technology is transforming how not for profits and social agencies are operating. Salesforce.com, the leader in Customer Resource Management (CRM) has solutions that are focused exclusively toward not-for-profits.  This means that social workers, leaders of not for profits need to understand how technology can improve their operations. Social Agencies can also use digital tools such as Connections Cloud, to enhance communication with donors and partner agencies to improve productivity.  

Second, the issue of math has to be addressed. Math is one subject that puts fear in many hearts, black or white! However, without math – it is nearly impossible to pursue a career path in IT. Thus, at an earlier age we need to get our young people excited about math. There are initiatives across Canada where coding and mathematics are being shared in a fun and innovate way. It is no longer acceptable for parents to tell their children how scared they were of math.  Instead, it is time to help our children embrace math as a tool to make a meaningful impact in the world and in their careers. Demonstrating how information technology careers can be lucrative is an approach that has worked with many young people.  

Studies have shown that Blacks in Canada are paid 10-15% less than the non-visible minority communities. To put this in perspective, if a non-visible minority  makes $65,000 year a Black Canadian on average will make $7,000 to $10,000 less per year. Surely a young person could use an extra $10,000 a year in income. In the information technology sector, the average salary for a Software Developer in the Toronto area is just under $80,000 annually.  Database Analysts have an average salary of $130,000 nationally across Canada. These roles are the backbone of popular websites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and NBA.com. Thus, a young person could be motivated to embrace math and technology based on practical and social merit. This approach has worked at a high school in the Greater Toronto Area that offered an introduction to Oracle Database course.   After 2 years only 12 students enrolled in this course. The school reached out to HigherEye Training & Consulting to help; which resulted in the Introduction to Oracle database course having full enrollment for 3 consecutive years.   

Lastly, it is important to form strategic partnerships with organizations focused on Information Technology. Many of these technology giants have community relations departments who are mandated to spread the word about the value of technology in our lives. The author of this article was Co-Chair of the Black IBM Network Group where numerous technology donations were given in the community. Along with these donations, IBM employees also conducted workshops geared to black youth focused on technology and math. There are an array of coding summer camps and weekend programs run by Technology professionals across Canada. It is in the community’s interest to engage with these programs to ensure that the next generation is technology savvy.

Yes there is racism in the technology sector and in Corporate Canada. While we must continue to advocate for the elimination of racism in the business world, more members of the Black Community must start to embrace the economic and social impact of Information Technology.   

Last modified on Thursday, 17 December 2015 18:59
Rad Dockery

Radcliffe Dockery is the Managing Director of HigherEye Training & Consulting - a consultancy that helps both public and private sector organizations increase revenues and marketshare.  

A Business Graduate from York University, he has spent the majority of his 17 year career in the Information Technology sector working for organizations such as IBM, TELUS, SoftChoice and MTS Allstream.   In addition, Radcliffe has Business Development and Training experience with firms based in Malaysia, Thailand, Botswana, China and Indonesia. During his career, he has helped companies utilize technology as an enabler for improved productivity and operations.    

Radcliffe is also an advocate for Youth Economic Empowerment.   He sits on the Board of Directors for the Canada Southern Africa Chamber of Business. 

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