The systemic racism faced by Black people in the United States has been in the news cycle consistently for the past two months, but what barriers does that throw up in the world of marketing technology?
There are many barriers, and unfortunately they cannot be solved by a new application or a cool new digital platform.
“Employer investment with Black employees is a popular topic right now, but in our industry it is the long-term issues that also need to be addressed,” said Peter Beasley, president of Blacks in Technology, a tech-focused community and media organization dedicated to increasing representation in the industry. “Are Black employees staying long-term? Are they moving up in the organization? Or are they quitting in frustration, or leaving to start their own business? Those are the questions that need to be asked.”
For Terry Morris, national president of Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), a nonprofit organization of professionals in the computer science and IT industries, he also wants the focus to be on results and not talking points or corporate presentations.
“The jury is still out on the results,” said Morris. “I am pleased the topic is still timely and the energy is still there. Black people have a lot of interest in the technology industry and we need the resources to match.”
Advancement by association
Organizations like Blacks in Technology and BDPA take a national approach in pooling resources and creating an academic-to-professional pipeline for students, as well as a networking pool and recruitment resource for professionals. Both organizations understand that barriers exist, not only for junior-level employees, but all the way up to the C-level, and are quick to address the needs at all stages.
The North Texas Chapter of Blacks in Technology host a chapter meeting.
With “Stomping the Divide” as its mantra, Blacks in Technology serves members through community, media and mentorship. A national job board lists hundreds of open positions across the country, while the popular podcast, “BITTechTalk,” features well over 100 episodes of interviews with executives, leaders and influencers in the technology sector.
Certifications and other professional development opportunities are also emphasized to help members overcome advancement barriers, while expanding their network of both peer and mentorship relationships.
“We also provide resources for Black technology entrepreneurs who fall victim to systemic racism by not being able to secure venture capital funding for worthy projects,” said Beasley. “These intentional actions are being discussed but public shame and accountability needs to be held to these companies, corporate entities and capital funding groups that are maintaining systemic racism while hiding behind the facade of the technology industry.”
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Founded 45 years ago by Earl Pace and David Wimberly, BDPA was created to bring underrepresented minorities together who work in the IT and computer science fields for the purpose of professional development and academic enrichment. There are nearly 50 BDPA chapters across the country, from Boston to the Bay Area, and nearly all states in between.
Since 1986, BDPA has been a leader and pioneer in technology and STEM training for IT professionals and high school students. Their national High School Computer Competition (HSCC) program is a hands-on training program that has introduced coding and application development to tens of thousands of students. HSCC also presents opportunities for students to obtain scholarships, including those offered by BDPA partners and sponsors.
“Our motto is, ‘From the classroom to the boardroom,’ to ensure we cover all aspects of a career in technology,” said Morris. “We are in the middle of a time where there is disproportionate job displacement in every industry, so we know that minorities in the tech industry will be affected even more than other professionals.”
BDPA also boasts a robust national job board site, as well as directors to members and partners that serve as resources for networking and identifying additional professional opportunities. BDPA works closely with the computer and technology professors and department leadership at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to further remove barriers of entry into the technology field.
“The goal is to increase the readiness of students for the marketplace and be proactive in displaying their talent and finding a matching opportunity,” said Morris. “We host digital boot camps for faculty and students because we know HBCUs carry a heavy burden for the lionshare of pipeline and tech talent in the Black community.”
Changing the corporate environment
For Publicis Sapient, a digital transformation agency, the developments in 2020 have led to the creation of an internal task force that is working closely with the CEO to create a short-term action plan as a foundation for implementing long-term inclusion in hiring practices and employee retention. On June 17, 18,000 Publicis Sapient team members participated in collaborative sessions and learning tracks to begin the process of change.
“We are incorporating plans specific to talent in the Black community,” said CMO Teresa Barreira. “We need to invest in Black- and minority-led education and training to drive a more robust corporate understanding of what it means to be Black, how history affects our Black colleagues, and the role other employees must play in achieving long-lasting equality.”
As Barreira says, “a playbook for racial equality does not exist,” so she strongly encourages companies to create their own playbook.
“Supporting and funding employee resource groups for Black employees is a strong way to demonstrate a commitment to creating and sustaining racial equity in the workplace,” said Barreira. “It is the technology industry’s responsibility to lead ethically by creating tools designed to reflect and adapt to the urgent need for racial justice reform. This should ripple across all industries.”
Beasley echoes this sentiment.
“Change is going to happen eventually, but before we ask corporate boardrooms to change we need to see the change in our court system and court of appeals,” said Beasley. “It is a trickle-down problem that goes from the courts in America to corporate America. The technology industry is not any different, but we can definitely take the lead in being the change.”
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This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.