[Editor’s Note: This page will be updated as we publish more stories in this series. And while “diversity” properly refers to a variety of perspectives in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and more, this four-part series mainly examines the racial aspect of diversity. The four parts will run on Aug. 18, Aug. 20, Aug. 25 and Aug. 27.]
Chances are, you’ve heard the term “access to capital” more times than you can count when it comes to explaining why we don’t see more minority founders in the tech field.
Access to capital is only the tip of the iceberg. A number of factors, ranging from sociological to political to economic, often hold people back from equal opportunities and success in a field that has traditionally been dominated by white males.
In this four-part series, we will explore some of the factors that erect barriers to minority participation in tech and entrepreneurship through the stories of several people of color in the Triangle’s tech industry. While there are multiple elements that one can attribute to such challenges, a few stood out in these conversations.
And the thing is, they’re all connected.
Access to capital hinges on breaking into investor networks and nailing the pitch, though many factors work against people of color in these situations, from the generational wealth gap to moving the goalposts.
In the context of entrepreneurship and tech, a lack of inherited and family money precludes many minorities from the “family and friends” funding that helps get so many startups off the ground. What’s more, compared to their White colleagues, they are less likely to have family models for how to start and run a business, nor do they have as much access to social networks that help many entrepreneurs get their foot in the door with investors. [This story ran on Aug. 18.]
As the saying goes, “It’s about who you know, not what you know,” right? There’s certainly a lot of that dynamic in the tech industry, like in most of the business world. What does a company or organization look like if the leaders only know people who have had similar experiences and upbringings? The gap of people in color that exists in the workforce—and especially among founders and in the C-suite—can be traced in large part to recruiting practices, with hiring pipelines delivering workers from all the usual suspects, but often excluding candidates from HBCUs and other minority candidates. Therefore we talk to local HBCUs to find out the challenges they face in changing this equation. [This story ran on Aug. 20.]
Another currently ubiquitous topic, “unconscious” bias comes up often in the context of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in the workplace. How effective are those workplace seminars and trainings, anyway? Many companies tout DEI as “improving the bottom line,” but one DEI coach argues that shouldn’t be the main reason for fostering an inclusive work environment—it’s simply the right thing to do. [This story ran on Aug. 25.]
So those are (some of) the problems. But what’s the Triangle doing about all this? While these factors and trends are a nationwide and even global problem, our little slice of the world is actually implementing programs to improve the situation. [This story ran on Aug. 27.]