Technology has long had a history of a lack of diversity and inclusion. 76 percent of jobs in the technology space are held by men, but yet and still, only 5 percent of jobs in the space are held by blacks and Latinos. Women of color shockingly make up less than 3 percent of the space.
Though I know the numbers, write the numbers and evaluate the numbers, it didn’t change the feelings that I felt when I found out I was the only woman of color presenting at a Google Dev Fest in Minneapolis, Minnesota — out of 60 plus speakers that were chosen and accepted.
This year will be my second year presenting on diversity and leadership in technology (the irony). As excited as I was to have my presentation accepted once again, I forgot about the harsh reality that was waiting for me right on the other side of happiness and anticipation.
When the organizers of the Google Dev Fest finally released the official list, I was so thrilled to see myself that I quickly screenshot everything (like all millennials do), posted it on all my social media channels and reminded everyone to tune in. That same night, I went back to the Dev Fest website just to see who else I would be presenting alongside, and that’s when my reality kicked in. My stomach dropped.
Out of 60 plus speakers that were accepted to present at the Google Dev Fest, I was the ONLY woman of color.
“The only woman of color is me? I was the only one selected? Why?”
It broke my heart and made me extremely uncomfortable because I knew there were so many talented developers and technologists outside of myself in the twin cities that should be on this platform. Why were they not aware of this opportunity? Was it negligence? Was it simply overlooked? Was it a lack of partnership in the black community? I immediately wanted to know.
Deep down in my heart I believed, “Well shoot, I’m only at the beginning of my career so if I’m as good as it gets, then I don’t deserve it.” There are so many other women of color, much better suited, to be on the stage with me.
The revelation kept me up that night. Few people really understood the way I felt about the selection, because most people of color think of being “the only one” as a badge of honor. But I’m not about that and that’s not who I am.
I scrolled the list again and again and then when I woke up one morning, I sent one of my trusted friends, who sits on the board, an email about allowing me to sit on the board next year. I want to be part of the selection process so that this didn’t happen again and we can move forward in building stronger partnerships in the black community.
This is why it’s so important for diversity and inclusion to be a part of every single aspect of any organization. Every single person you hire must understand the importance and be willing to make the effort to build a diverse organization.
We can’t create change if we don’t change ourselves, step up and step out, promoting people of color into leadership positions and giving them power to make decisions. As hard as it is for me to stomach, I understand that I can afford to sit out of the conference and speak up. I have to be an advocate for those coming behind me, and for those who have come before me and didn’t get the same opportunities. This is a mission I am committed to for the rest of my life.