Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: as the number of jobs in tech grows, Black, Latinx, and Native American women are being left behind. Underrepresented women of color appear in vanishingly small percentages in the computing workforce, and, over the past decade, the percentage of underrepresented female students receiving computer and information sciences degrees actually fell by nearly 40 percent.
Despite advocacy for diversity and inclusion in the tech sector, the trendline is going in the wrong direction for women of color. A coalition of 15 tech companies called Reboot Representation—which is funded by Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates—wants to change that. I recently joined Reboot Representation as CEO not just because I’m passionate about its mission, but because I’m invested in its model as well.
Today, underrepresented women earn only 4 percent of undergraduate computing degrees. At the current rate, this number will not double until 2052. That’s why Reboot Representation has committed to doubling that number by 2025. The coalition’s commitment to this goal is more than just lip service. It’s a demonstration of what’s possible when companies look beyond their own walls and come together in service of a common goal.
My personal experience with collective action has been powerful. Throughout my career as a woman of color in corporate, technical environments, I’ve experienced firsthand the power and strength that comes from gathering those who share a common purpose. As a member of the Black Data Processing Associates and a founding member of Leveraging Employees of African Descent (LEAD) Business Resource Group at Mastercard, I know that we can change the outcomes for underrepresented groups when we join forces. I believe so deeply in the power of the collective—a power that comes from a shared vision and shared resources to act—that I joined Reboot Representation as its inaugural CEO.
We are accustomed to individuals gathering across companies, across industries, or across geographies. Summits, conferences, interest groups, and technology have made it easier than ever for people to find community in their work and support others at the same time. But what happens when we collaborate at the organizational level? What happens when we choose corporate collaboration over corporate competition?
Over the past year, the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition has been answering these questions. In a 2018 report conducted by Pivotal Ventures and McKinsey, 32 tech companies surveyed expressed a strong desire to reach underrepresented women of color. However, less than 0.1% of their 2017 philanthropic giving, amounting to a combined $335,000, focused specifically on reaching those women. The report catalyzed 15 tech companies to pool their philanthropic resources and intentionally invest in boosting the representation of Black, Latinx, and Native American women in computing fields. To date, the coalition has pledged over $16 million in service of this goal—that’s already 4,000% more than the McKinsey survey results from 2017.
No single company created gender and racial inequity, and no single company can holistically address that inequity. But, a powerful gathering of companies with vision and targeted focus can show what’s possible and change the current landscape by collectively investing philanthropic dollars as catalysts for change.
I’m excited for this opportunity to lead Reboot Representation as we tackle this critical challenge at this particular moment. As I begin, I invite those working in the tech sector to find opportunities to gather in service of change. Where will you find your partners, determine your shared vision, and work towards something better? Together, we have the power to chart a new course.