A new report released today by the Kapor Center in partnership with the NAACP found that the tech industry is still failing to diversify its talent pipeline, and in some areas, it's even regressing. There was just a 1% increase in representation of Black workers in technical roles at large tech companies between the years of 2014 and 2021, according to the report titled State of Tech Diversity: The Black Tech Ecosystem.
The Kapor Center, a nonprofit focused on promoting racial equity in STEM education and the tech industry, also found that funding among Black startup entrepreneurs still remains low. Black-founded companies received 1.3% of the almost $290 billion distributed in funding over the past year.
The gap in representation in the industry starts in the classroom. Though the number of computer science majors has risen exponentially (increasing 300% since 2006), the percentage of Black graduates with computer science degrees actually fell between the years 2016 and 2020. In 2020, 8% of bachelor's degrees conferred in computer science were earned by Black grads, according to the Kapor Center’s data. Coding bootcamps didn’t fare much better in terms of representation: 6% of coding bootcamp participants identified as Black.
Though, the pipeline to the industry through HBCUs, community colleges and apprenticeships has proven to be stronger. According to the report, 10% of all Black computer science majors with conferred degrees in 2020 graduated from an HBCU, and 35% came from community colleges. Two institutions that have at times been historically underfunded. Though more tech companies have invested in such programs in recent years.
Last year, Amazon Web Services announced it would partner with Howard University to create a master’s degree program focused on data science, as well as cloud concepts. And more recently, Microsoft announced it would expand its cybersecurity skilling initiative which launched in the U.S. last fall through partnering with 135 community colleges to skill and recruit workers into cybersecurity jobs. The company has provided the institutions with access to free curriculum, educator training and tools for teaching, according to a corporate blog post by Kate Behncken, vice president and lead of Microsoft Philanthropies.
Another emerging avenue for diversifying the talent pipeline in tech has been seen in apprenticeship programs. 17% of apprentices were reportedly Black, according to the report. Also early last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, with the goal of setting aside $3.5 billion over five years into apprenticeships.
"Technological advancement continues to drive our economy and transform the nature of work, and the exclusion of Black talent from this sector impacts innovation, product creation, economic mobility, and is a significant driver of inequality. One-off solutions have not worked. It is time to invest in long-term structural solutions," said Allison Scott, CEO of the Kapor Center, in the recent release.