Girls In Tech NYC

Marking Juneteenth as a national holiday is an important step. But Girls in Tech New York City, a non-profit dedicated to closing the gender gap in tech, believes organizations must go beyond symbolic gestures and take concrete actions to foster equity and inclusion. They can do this by ensuring representation, supporting talent development, and elevating Black voices.

As Girls in Tech NYC Managing Director, Flora White says, “It’s important to move the conversation forward, to talk about issues such as how to attract and retain Black talent, and to understand their workplace experiences.”

To support this vision, Girls in Tech NYC recently hosted its third annual Juneteenth panel discussion to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Held on the award-winning BlueJeans Events platform, the discussion highlighted the challenges faced by Black women in the tech industry and how they can overcome those obstacles and thrive in their careers.

The discussion brought together influential Black voices in tech, including Pariss Chandler, Bree Frank, and Darien Maples, with Cara Holdsclaw, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer at Columbia University Athletics, as moderator.

Navigating Isolation and Exclusion

A common issue encountered by many Black women in tech is the sense of isolation they feel when they find themselves the only Black person in a predominantly white, male-dominated space.

Maples, Managing Director for Girls in Tech Dallas, said this was particularly daunting during her early years in tech. “I was always extremely scared to say no because in the room, it was predominantly white men. So it’s always an uncomfortable feeling to be the only [Black person] in the room.”

Chandler, Founder and CEO of Black Tech Pipeline — a job board and recruitment platform for Black technologists and professionals — had a similar experience upon entering the industry.

“Before I got into tech, I was always in jobs where I was surrounded by people who looked like me,” said Chandler. “And then I break into this industry where I’m like, ‘Oh, the money is so great. It’s so life changing. But I’m having these weird experiences where I feel excluded. I feel like people don’t want to get to know me, they don’t want to talk to me. It’s very isolating.”

The Power of Community

To overcome isolation, these women stressed the importance of finding a community of colleagues or peers that understands and uplifts one another.

Chandler reminded Black women in tech that they’re not alone.

“You’re going to have people that are here to support you when you enter, when you progress. When you’re thinking of maybe transitioning [to the tech industry], you’re always going to have people to speak to, who understand where you’re coming from.”

According to Frank, Founder of Hue You Know, a non-profit that provides resources for media professionals of color, a supportive community can be within someone’s workplace or outside of it.

“You need someone to check in with — a circle of trust.”

The Importance of Recognizing One’s Value

To thrive in tech, Black women must recognize their own value and have the courage to speak up. By doing so, they not only empower themselves but also pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive industry.

“You don’t want to be scared to speak your truth, because we need more Black women in this industry,” said Maples. “That’s something I faced as a challenge, and I succeeded by moving up, by being in leadership now, and by speaking up.”

Another crucial aspect to succeeding in tech is psychological safety, which involves creating an environment where individuals can express themselves without fear of judgment or reprisal. Frank particularly stressed the importance of psychological safety in self-empowerment and personal growth.

“My psychological safety comes when I’m defining who I am and I understand my value, and I’m not asking people permission to be who I am,” she said.

Psychological safety is especially crucial for Black individuals who face daily challenges, according to Maples. By creating psychologically safe spaces, there are more opportunities for Black individuals to speak up and contribute their perspectives, leading to a richer and more inclusive tech industry.

“I always felt like that was a challenge in dealing with a lot of tech companies,” said Maples. “[But] there’s now a lot of diversity and inclusion, because there were challenges in getting Black people into these top tech companies.”

What Allies Can Do

Promoting the inclusion of Black women in tech requires tangible actions from colleagues who are allies.

Frank encourages others to step up and bridge the gap where Black people may be overlooked or unseen, and to use their power to promote visibility for their Black colleagues.

“I think I want to see more white people become accomplices and less allies,” she added.

“I want to see less talking and explaining about all the things that you [white people] know, about what you’ve learned in the last three years. And I want to see you make space and carve out something that will allow us to thrive in the way that we deserve to thrive.”

Embracing Juneteenth for Good

To really honor the significance of Juneteenth, it is crucial to move beyond regarding it as a one-day celebration and embrace it as an integral part of the American cultural fabric.

According to Chandler, “Juneteenth is not just a holiday that you celebrate for one day, when you support Black businesses and educate yourself about the Black community.

“There are various things you can do on this day, but these are things you should be practicing forever.”

Watch Girls in Tech NYC’s Juneteenth panel discussion and try out BlueJeans Events for free today!