Problem 3: Unequal Access to Essential Experiences


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After over two decades in tech, Black tech professionals and executives experience less access to critical development experiences. At some point, many pivot from focusing on difficult-to-attain top team positions to finding alternative ways to build legacy, wealth and pay it forward.

Over 20 years into their careers, many of Black tech pioneers have achieved a number of successes to be celebrated. However, compared against their non-Black peers, we see a less-than-equal story about the progress made to date about the opportunities granted to Black tech veterans in the industry.  A robust 88 percent of non-Black tech professionals with over 20 years of experience have led major company initiatives, whereas 61 percent of Black tech professionals with the same years of experience say the same- that is a gap of 27 percentage points,.  . Critically, nearly one in four (23 percent) Black tech professionals with long careers in tech do not believe they will have the opportunity to lead major company initiatives (compared to only 7 percent of their non-Black counterparts).

Black tech professionals and executives experience less access to significant career moments in senior roles

Black tech professionals and executives experience less access to significant career moments in senior roles

Base: n=307 Black technology professionals, n=71 non-Black technology professionals

Black technology leaders that we spoke to (many of whom are founders, executives, and on corporate boards) believe that no matter how much they achieve, it will never be enough. In their view, the bar keeps moving, keeping them distracted by chasing unattainable goals. Just 29 percent of these professionals say that they are satisfied with the career opportunities that they have had to date (compared to 52 percent of the non-Black cohort). “There are things built into the systems in how people interact with me or other Black people in the workplace that make you think you can’t aspire to things; they make you feel you should just be grateful to have this position,” one focus group participant shared. "And then the further you go, the further they move the goal posts. What had once been going above and beyond is now the bare minimum.”

While the great efforts put into bringing more Black talent into tech at the early stages are admirable and important, it is clear that organizations must also focus on taking action at the senior and executive level to develop and promote Black senior leaders. On average, just 2.7 percent of executives in senior roles at 10 major tech companies are Black, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The precise number varies from 1 percent or less at some companies up to a maximum representation of 6 percent at others. This lack of access to fair opportunities perpetuates this lack of growth in Blacks in senior leadership roles in tech.

Our data suggests that Black senior leaders are the most likely in the community to be willing to change employers today, said another way, they are the least engaged with their organizations (72 percent willing to change employers today vs. 64 percent of Black tech talent overall). These leaders explained to us that they have had to move beyond the expected paths to achieve their goals of leaving their own legacies. A senior private equity leader told us about his approach to reframing his path late in his career: “Yes, traditionally there is a path, and this is how people do things. You don’t always have to wait in line, but the only way to shortcut that path is to know where you want to go. For me, one of the pitfalls was that I wanted to be CEO, I want to have money, and be more philanthropic. The “CEO” title became a gate and I could never get to it. It stopped me from reaching my goals sooner. I kept hitting the ceiling, when I could have gone around it a different way to get to the same purpose I wanted to get to.”

In the guidance, we expand on how organizations can shift from a model that reinforces homogeneity to one that actively seeks out diversity in leadership opportunities and succession practices. Tech leaders need to shift their mindset from eliminating potential leaders based on what they haven’t done yet, to focusing on what additive value and difference in perspective can that person bring to the initiative and to the company’s leadership. For Black leaders, we share how peers advise on how to stay ahead of the curve to stay in demand.

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Problem 1: Information Disadvantage
Problem 2: Higher Standards, Lower Ceilings




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Shaping the Future of Leadership for Black Tech Talent