Black women talk tech and represent
As is usually the case for all things radical and bold, Black Women Talk Tech originated out of circumstance and necessity. After repeatedly finding themselves to be the only ones in the room, three women decided to gather and speak about their versions of an exceedingly rare and unique existence. They rallied to build community and to support growth. The now two-day conference, being held at and sponsored by Microsoft, is the fortunate result of three individual tech founders looking to “tear down roadblocks and promote #BlackGirlMagic within the tech industry” through an honest lens that is Black. Female. [and] Tech Founder.
Esosa Igohdaro (cofounder of CoSign), Lauren Washington (cofounder of KeepUp), and Regina Gwynn (cofounder of TresseNoire Beauty) first got together with other WOC tech founders for a 10-person weekend retreat. It was a deep dive into their entrepreneurial experiences and the getaway shed light on the challenges they shared. In recognizing the value of shared information and spaces within a network, the resource that is BWTT was birthed.
Created by Black women founders and designed to focused on their specific needs, the mission of Black Women Talk Tech is to encourage and support the next black female-led billion-dollar company. In addition to fortifying networks of BW and business advocates that transcend all areas of technology, both days are lush with actionable information needed to navigate the even narrower intersections and inroads of being a Black female founder (and technologist). When asked which of the conference’s topics are most vital to understand and speak most to their personal journeys, the BWTT cofounders simultaneously responded “all of them!” All of the sections are based on what they as founders have had to learn along the way - issues they’ve dealt with, are having now, and foresee coming as they continue their efforts to scale.
The largest roadblock, in most cases, is securing the bag to afford the growth; everyone competes to land the investors but the spread on allocations is more than jarring. Of all the venture capital distributed to businesses, 10% of funds go to non-white male founders with only .2% going to Black female founders. This equates to $36,000 compared to the average $1.2 million awarded to leading recipients. Contrary to these investment metrics, Black women are unequivocally the most entrepreneurial segment of the U.S. population and hold the highest levels of education and advanced degrees. However, these narratives persist and are perpetuated by unconscious bias and overall limited access to the individuals making investment decisions. It is difficult to convince those in the suits to view others as leaders and worthy of a shot. The funds continue to circulate in the same circles, following the “college dropout in a graphic hoodie” archetype. Without the financial support, it’s almost impossible for businesses to effectively scale to the levels of success that match their full potential.
All three co-founders of BWTT entered into tech founder-dom without previous careers directly in technology. In following their entrepreneurial callings, they found themselves in spaces with far less representation and industry examples than they could have imagined. Their inability to turn to someone for advice and support filtered through the correct, multidimensional lens is what brought them together. And thus began their journey of building connections and resources amongst peers.
As is par for the course, Black women are on the surge and at the helm of ushering in new faces to rooms that have long been male and pale. BWTT is here to open up dialogue and paint a new picture of hues in the room by continuing to share resources within networks of women and people whom are advocates of their ideas, businesses and initiatives. Following in true FUBU light, a community of women are now speaking to the real life narrative of existing as a Black female founder with specific needs.
Black Women Talk Tech evolved from a need for us to represent, not just as founders but as technologists entirely. We must encourage Black female advancements in tech in all sectors and disciplines. As the conference itself straddles Black and Women’s History months, it is a testament to the reality that the future is female and Black. May we continue to talk tech + lead the charge.
Black Women Talk Tech, will be held on February 28th and March 1st in Time Square, NY. Visit the BWTT Conference site for tickets and to learn more about the agenda, speakers and more!