Opportunity Miami
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Opportunity Miami

Are We REDI? #MiamiTech’s Opportunity To Build For Racial Equity

George Floyd has become a cultural zeitgeist. A martyr for racial equity. The tragic end to his life served as a clarion call within the tech world, inviting us all to reimagine our relationship with diversity and inclusion. More specifically, how these and other equitable principles live out in practice in business and our daily lives.

In the wake of the national outcry following the death of Mr. Floyd — and so many other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) individuals — Big Tech giants, their corporate counterparts and government leadership collectively rallied to issue bold statements reaffirming their commitment to address racial equity. Reports track upwards of 535 diversity pledges from 159 companies and counting. Yet, only a year into this $50 billion pledge, we still struggle to see the tangible fruits of these well-publicized commitments.

Why Does It Matter?

By objective measures, Miami remains among the most segregated and unequal cities in the country. We know we have a problem. The challenge is we lack data on how deep the opportunity gaps go.

If our aim is to accelerate economic growth within our local tech ecosystem by attracting new talent, startups, and investors, we need to develop a shared vision and strategic plan for how to do so equitably and inclusively.

What’s missing from the equation is a way to measure, track, and hold ourselves accountable.

The REDI Scorecard is designed to do just that. It is a comprehensive assessment designed to measure racial equity, diversity, and inclusion within the South Florida tech and innovation ecosystem. To develop this unique evaluation framework, I and our team at aīre ventures leveraged insights from our work in Miami supporting upwards of 55,000 innovators over the last six years.

Admittedly, this undertaking was no small feat, nor a solo endeavour. A coalition of more than 80 South Florida organizations and leaders contributed to the qualitative and quantitative data collection effort resulting in 1400+ data points gathered from more than 1600 participants.

Typically, tech ecosystem assessments are top down and not bottom up. But, what makes the REDI Scorecard different is that it explicitly focuses on collecting sentiment and lived experience data. It combines a variety of measurement practices and inclusive approaches to ensure that the most marginalized experiences and perspectives have a platform for meaningful input.

What Did We Learn?

Key findings from the Miami region revealed:

  • Women entrepreneurs lack effective support
  • Placement gaps exist in connecting diverse, skilled tech talent with worthwhile companies
  • Stakeholders desire more action-oriented government support for tech and entrepreneurship
  • Networks lack diversity and remain difficult to access without the right connections

While the findings offer a constructive benchmark for action, the data also demonstrates:

  • Access to capital and funding are a top priority for all stakeholders
  • Entrepreneurs do have access to a variety of low-cost programs
  • There remains a high degree of trust in ecosystem leaders and players to make good decisions

For me, the most alarming takeaway from the REDI Scorecard is the statistically significant disparities in the Black experience within Miami’s tech and innovation community. These findings juxtapose an increased national spotlight on #MiamiTech that is fueled by a substantial migration wave from tech and venture capital hubs like Silicon Valley and New York. Importantly, this data underscores several urgent opportunities for inclusive ecosystem growth.

Access For Some, But Unfortunately Not All

Despite a record wave of Black entrepreneurial growth nationally, we saw over 40% of black owned businesses fail during 2020, compared to a 20% national average. What’s more, the percentage of underrepresented groups in technology firms, primarily Black and Brown folks, remains a fractional comparison to their counterparts.

It is against this backdrop that at least 49% of Black ecosystem members reported experiencing difficulty discovering and accessing much needed resources and relational connections.

We have an opportunity to make tech and entrepreneurial resources more accessible for Black founders and innovators.

Money Talks

Similarly, while the number of BIPOC led venture backed companies increased nationally in the wake of the global pandemic, in Miami we’ve seen record deployment of venture capital, exceeding $2 billion in 2021 alone. Yet, locally, we have yet to track what percentage of venture capital actually reaches Black founders, who on average, receive less than 1%.

Over 43% of Black respondents ranked Capital & Funding as a №1 priority, which remained consistent across race/ethnicity or gender identifiers.

We have an opportunity to increase the number of capital acquisition opportunities specifically focused on Black and underrepresented founders (including women).

Representation Matters

The stories we tell publicly not only chronicle our collective perceptions about who has the capacity to innovate, but also provide inspiration capital for others to do the same. That’s why representation matters.

REDI Scorecard data revealed that 60% of Black community members experienced a lack of representation and voicelessness of their perspectives, which is a statistically significant disparity compared to their white and Hispanic counterparts, at 40% and 46% respectively.

We have an opportunity to ensure Black founders and innovators feel that their identities and voices are both represented and heard.

Overlooked and Underestimated

Our tech ecosystem boasts a dearth of organizations that explicitly prioritize creating opportunity pathways for Black founders and innovators, including, to name a few:

However, the bulk of the labour ought not fall upon the very leaders who are often adversely affected by the same racial inequality they seek to eliminate.

Not surprisingly, Black ecosystem builders and business support leaders rate the ecosystem 40% lower than white or Hispanic leaders across all categories.

We have the opportunity to support Black ecosystem leaders by becoming working allies who, at a minimum, demonstrate our commitment through catalytic funding and measurable action.

What Does It Mean To Be REDI?

Indeed, to be REDI is much more than an aspiration or lofty goal. Our tech ecosystem calls on us to answer several challenging, yet critically important questions:

  • How do we develop a shared definitions of what it means to be REDI on an individual, institutional and ecosystem level?
  • How do we identify and assess REDI gaps, opportunities and priorities ?
  • How do we ensure resources are both REDI and accessible to those that need them?

As a black women in #MiamiTech, I think of being REDI as taking necessary and intentional action to build the type of ecosystem that we have yet to see — one that is characterized by equitable access to opportunities, inclusive distribution of resources, and a culture of belonging — for everyone.

What does being REDI mean to you?

To explore additional insights, findings, data sets and our assessment methodology, please take a moment to visit the interactive REDI Scorecard results website.

Leigh-Ann Buchanan is a writer, strategist, and sought-after advisor on REDI (racial equity, diversity and inclusion) strategies for tech and innovation ecosystems and organizational cultures. Learn more about her work here.

Opportunity Miami is powered by the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

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Leigh-Ann Buchanan

Leigh-Ann Buchanan

11 Followers

I help leaders accelerate equity through innovation, tech and social investment.