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Statistics on Women of Color in Computing Provide the Tech Industry With Key Areas to Target for Transformation

For the past four years, large Silicon Valley tech firms have published their diversity data, revealing stark racial and gender disparities despite growing recognition of the many benefits of increased company diversity for innovation and performance.

While these company diversity reports provided a first glimpse into the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the some of the largest and most profitable technology companies in the world, one important population has been noticeably missing. Until Google’s diversity report was released earlier this summer, gender and race data were published separately and most companies didn’t report on the proportion of women of color in their workforce at all.

We know from seminal research by Kimberle Crenshaw, Shirley Malcom, and Mia Ong on intersectionality and the “double-bind” that women of color face unique and cumulative barriers related to both their gender and race in STEM fields.

We also know there are many reasons why focusing on women of color should be a priority, including their percentage of the population (39% of all females in the US), their rapid population growth, and their percentage of the female population creating small businesses (80%). Including more women of color in the tech sector would mean that the businesses they start would have higher wages and would increase the economic output of their labor.

Yet, there’s still little data and much to be learned about the participation and success of women and girls of color across the tech pipeline, including their experiences, barriers, and effective strategies to bolster their success.

In order to expand collective understanding of experiences and outcomes for women of color in the tech ecosystem, the Kapor Center has teamed up with the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (CGEST) at Arizona State University to launch the Women of Color in Computing Researcher/Practitioner Collaborative.

As part of the project launch, we’ve synthesized existing data into an inaugural Women and Girls of Color in Computing Data Brief, with trends for women and girls of color across the tech ecosystem, from K-12 and higher education to the tech workforce and entrepreneurship/venture capital. By women and girls of color, we’re focused on Black/African-American, Latinx/Hispanic, Asian, Native American/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women across the tech sector, particularly those that are underrepresented in the industry.

While the data highlights significant challenges, they will provide the industry an with important baseline realities and clear gaps to address in order to improve the participation of women of color in the space.

Some key statistics from the data brief include:

    • PreK-12 Education: Just 7% of all high school students who took Advanced Placement Computer Science were Black, Latinx, or Native American/Alaskan Native girls–even though they comprise 42% of the high school population in the United States (see chart below for more detail);
    • Higher Education: Black, Latinx, and Native American/Alaskan and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women earn just 10% of Bachelor’s degrees in computing, combined, and Latinx women are most severely underrepresented relative to their overall population;
    • Tech Workforce: Although underrepresented women of color (Black, Latinx, and Native American/Alaskan and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander) are 39% of the total US population of women, they make up less than 3% of Silicon Valley’s tech workforce combined (see chart below for more detail);
    • Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital: Underrepresented women of color receive less than 1% of all venture funding and represent only 1% of all venture professionals.

This project will build a foundational body of literature on the data trends of women of color across the tech ecosystem, identify the barriers underrepresented women of color in tech face, and highlight strategies and interventions that could increase the number of women of color entering and staying in computing.

A major focus will be to translate emerging research findings into actionable practices, communicate these strategies to educators, diversity, equity and inclusion professionals, tech industry leaders, and venture capitalists, and scale effective strategies broadly to make sure women of color are included as leaders and creators in the rapidly growing technology ecosystem.

The future of our nation’s innovation economy depends on our ability to cultivate talent and creativity across all demographic groups.

We invite you to learn more about the project and get involved in working toward solutions. [Requests for research proposals will be forthcoming]

Anne and Natalie

Anne and Natalie

Anne Kenny and Natalie Tulsiani are user researchers, each with over 10 years of experience. After becoming moms, they've focused on applying their research & design skills to help advocate for moms at work.

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