Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Digital access

Have two years of DEI promises actually made our tech ecosystems more racially equitable?

This June is Technical.ly's third annual Racial Equity in Tech Month, during which we'll keep highlighting the ways our tech and startup scenes are — and are not — fulfilling their post-George Floyd pledges.

A sign marking Black Lives Matter Plaza along a stretch of DC's 16th Street NW. (Photo by Flickr user Joe Flood, used via a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of Racial Equity in Tech Month 2022 of Technical.ly's editorial calendar. This month’s theme is underwritten by Spotify. This story was independently reported and not reviewed by Spotify before publication.

Has the tech and startup sector actually become more equitable since two years ago, when George Floyd’s murder inspired one of the largest waves of protests against institutional anti-Black racism in US history?

Or has it just found more sophisticated, “woke” ways to talk about the same racism without meaningfully confronting it?

These questions could be applied to virtually any sector of the US economy that — as millions overcame COVID-19-borne despair to demonstrate against police brutality — faced its own calls to fight racism both within and beyond. And while 2020 was far from the first time corporate America was forced to confront its role in social movements (or lack thereof), it did seem to reflect a new economic era, in which companies of all sizes had a greater business incentive than ever to do something about racism.

Technical.ly covered the local impact of these and related developments across our different markets, which include at least two of the country’s most infamously segregated cities, throughout the near-two years since the horrific video of ex-Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck pierced our pandemic malaise. We’ve examined how domestic companies’ nearly $5o billion of commitments and attendant pivots in foundational and VC priorities have played out in Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Delaware and Milwaukee. Our work routinely highlighted how technologists and the places they work or learn are trying to make their workplaces more equitable, develop policies to end the digital divide, tackle racist funding disparities, ethically reform public algorithmic systems and cultivate a STEM workforce that looks more like their cities, among other interventions that reflect nationwide moves.

Some of these priority shifts have worked. Corporate boards are more diverse than before. Workplace culture conversations are increasingly infused with terms like “DEI,” “BIPOC,” “systemic racism” and “social entrepreneurship.”

But do these laudable changes do enough to change power structures still dominated by white men? Does a wealth of cultural competency explainers actually convince employers to hire and then empower their non-white employees? Do diversity pledges mean anything if companies can reach anodyne benchmarks by hiring white women or gay men? And when all’s said and done, can a more racially equitable tech sector create a world where police or random civilians stop killing Black people?

They’re big questions, and we can’t answer all of them in our reporting this June — Racial Equity in Tech Month of Technical.ly’s editorial calendar. But we have them in mind as guidance as we look to cover the work being done to increase access and representation for people who have been historically left out of local tech economies, building on our years of reporting on the topic. Expect articles that critically examine how VC funds, startups, professional organizations, government agencies and others that promise more equitable tech markets are faring.

Also expect stories that tell the joyous side of this often-despairing story: programs that put more Black and brown STEM grads into lucrative tech jobs, entrepreneurs who walk the DEI walk, new initiatives with refined lenses and other stories of results-driven success.

As we consistently seek to empower the voices of people at the forefront of such solutions, we invite you to recommend yourself or others who you think we need to feature. Are you working on a novel intervention for racial equity issues in the tech and startup ecosystems we cover? Do you want to write a first-person guest post or point us to a must-read report that could change the way our readers look at racial equity in tech?

Get in touch
Companies: Spotify
Series: Racial Equity in Tech Month 2022

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