Black Tech Conferences Offer a Lifeline in a Predominantly White Industry
By: Sherrell Dorsey
The Plug took a look at more than 15 annual Black tech conferences to understand if and how these niche conferences are shaping inclusive cultures within the tech industry.
The atmosphere is reminiscent of a Black college homecoming. Graphic tees splattered with affirmations like “Black Billionaire in the Making” are in abundance, music thumps throughout the venue, and attendees shuffling between expo halls and panel discussions keep time on Apple watches. The VIP rooms are filled with the who’s who of black tech and headliners.Bozoma Saint John, the former marketing executive at Apple and Uber, begins her opening keynote with a walk out to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.”
This is the black tech conference — a safe space where black technologists, students, entrepreneurs, and investors come to play. It’s a family reunion of sorts; the kind where all of your #BlackTwitter cousins meet in real life to nerd out on cryptocurrency, augmented reality, crowdfunding, and workshops boast titles that range from “cultural nuance in creative problem solving” to “black women and entrepreneurship, what the data shows.”
According to a 2014 analysis by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, fewer than 8 percent of high-tech jobs are held by African Americans compared to 68.5 percent for white Americans — a number that has remained largely unchangedfor over a decade. Black tech conferences, both old and new, have been working to close that gap by connecting large tech employers to talent and creating an environment for exposure and professional development for underserved technology enthusiasts.
From $65 for a one-day admission to up to $2,500 if you include overnight accommodations and travel, the Black tech conference is designed to help Black people connect in spaces where they’ve traditionally been shut out.
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