2-Year Research – Obstacles Women of Color Face Pursuing Tech Careers

By Mark Macias

Here’s an example of a press release that puts 2 years of research into context. The story was covered by multiple media outlets.

The report supported by the Citi Foundation, Breaking Through, Rising Up: Strategies for Propelling Women of Color in Technology, interviewed and surveyed more than 1,000 tech executives, board advisors and NPower alumni to quantify and qualify how the tech industry views women of color and the barriers women face.

The data driven report highlights the challenges and opportunities that emerge from investing in women of color from low-to-moderate income communities. It also sheds new light on the industry fact that less than 10 percent of all tech professionals are women of color.

The CEO of NPower, Bertina Ceccarelli, said this new research delves into the industry’s shortcomings for diversity in the workplace, while also providing solutions and recommendations for tech leaders.

“This is one of the most in-depth looks at specific and unique barriers young Black and Latinx women face in pursuing training and employment in the tech labor market – specifically those without college degrees and from underserved communities,” said Ceccarelli. “The recommendations in this research will help tech executives recruit, hire and retain more women of color in their workforce. This diversity report is in line with the NPower mission to bring more diversity to the tech industry by empowering and offering men and women of color the opportunities and resources to succeed.”

Citi Foundation awarded NPower a $1.64 million, two-year grant in 2018 to increase enrollment of young women of color in their training program to 40 percent by the year 2022 and to increase the onboarding for women of color to their instructional team to 40% as well. The “40 by 22 Initiative” was an intentional effort to deploy new strategies and share best practices on how to attract and prepare women of color for a career in technology.

“Two years ago, we extended our longtime partnership with NPower to further support and empower women of color in their technology careers through the 40 by 22 initiative,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation. “Through the publication of this report, we hope to inspire others to create pathways to opportunity for young women and communities of color as we continue to address the systemic inequities in our nation.”

To date, the intersection of gender, race, and class in the technology industry has received little attention. So far, NPower’s 40 by 22 Initiative:

Increased the enrollment of young women in their program 105 percent; helping 378 women of color to launch tech careers
With close to half of young women unemployed before the program; average salaries of young women after completing their fundamental training reached $42,500; while women taking advanced offerings earn $77,000 annually
Increase the number of women on their instructional team from nine (from one in 2018)
Key Research Findings from NPower female graduates
When reflecting on their time in the NPower program:
90 percent of participants had an interest in learning about technology
Women face more challenges and hardships related to childcare, housing, food and transportation and therefore more likely to withdraw from training programs than men
24 percent of female alumni said they worry gender bias will impede their future success, compared to 1 percent of men.
When references their experiences in the workplace:
Women report more incidents of stereotypes or discrimination in the workplace (28 percent of female graduates compared to 9 percent men).
35 percent of female graduates were more likely to be assigned administrative tasks like note taking in a meeting compared to 29 percent of males.
29 percent of female students are still searching for employment in IT – among those who are unemployed in IT compared to 1 percent of males.
Average salary for NPower alumni was $55,600 with no significant difference between male and female graduates.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all live and work,” said Ceccarelli. “As the country recovers from the health impacts, and the economy begins to rebound from the current recession, it reinforces that communities of color who have been most impacted by the pandemic and institutional racism—particularly women of color—must be part of any inclusive workforce plan.”

Call to Action for Employers, Practitioners, Funders and Policymakers

The report, Breaking Through Rising Up: Strategies for Propelling Women of Color in Technology, also quantified how a culture of equality has a multiplier effect on innovation in technology. The research reinforces the importance of employers to foster a culture that is inclusive of gender, racial/ethnic, and socio-economic diversity.

The research provides guidance based for improving, retaining and sustaining diversity in the workforce. Top recommendations for employers include:

Diversity and inclusion efforts must move beyond access and hiring to focus on opportunities for women to grow and advance (i.e. mentorship, upskilling)
Focus on building or rebuilding a culture of equality which may warrant mandated bias training for staff and hiring talent based on credentials versus a traditional college degree
Prioritize inclusive leadership practices which begins with diversity at the most senior level of decision-makers and back that up with accountability metrics

The report provides recommendations for tech training practitioners, philanthropic funders and policy makers.

For Practitioners:
Commit to ongoing professional development opportunities to ensure that staff are aware of how gender bias may be affecting the classroom culture and program environment and that they have the know-how to interrupt and mitigate bias when it appears.
Consider flexible training options, including online or evening/weekend courses, that can better accommodate caregiving or employment responsibilities.
Partner strategically with other technology training programs to create a more holistic set of services and opportunities for students and alumnae.
Conduct regular surveys of program participants and alumni to understand their challenges, motivations, experiences, and the longer-term return on investment.

For Funders or Investors:
Increase investments in nonprofit technology training specifically to engage and support women of color.
Invest not only in classroom training, but also in wraparound services, including childcare, transportation, and mental health resources, that address the full set of supports needed to succeed.
Serve as advocates within the funding community to convey the importance of targeted support for engaging women of color in technology.

For Policy makers:
Increase funding for apprenticeship programs.
Expand eligibility for Pell Grants and allocate new sources of funding for training programs.
Increase funding for childcare subsidies for those in training programs.
Increase support for public education STEM funding, especially in middle school.

About NPower
NPower is a national nonprofit on a mission to move people from poverty to the middle class by training youth from underserved communities and veterans in a range of tech skills and placing them in quality jobs. Students who enter their free, six-month program, earn industry-recognized certifications and graduate with the competencies of an IT professional with one to two years of experience. NPower also places students in paid internships with corporate and nonprofit organizations. Eighty percent of NPower graduates get a full-time job or continue their education.

NPower’s free tech training programs for under-served communities are located in Brooklyn, Harlem, Baltimore, Jersey City, Newark, Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis and San Jose. To attend the live launch event register at https://bit.ly/2zg8a2S. To read the research report visit http://www.npower.org/research

About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant communities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit http://www.citifoundation.com.

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Mark Macias