You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: #ProjectDiane

This is a part of series of discussions around the release of the #ProjectDianereport, a report on digitalundivided’s proprietary research study about the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship in the United States. The report will be released on Feb 9th, 2016.

The lack of positive media images featuring Black women in tech, especially as leaders in tech, not only impacts the number of Black women entrepreneurs entering the space, but also affects the startup world’s ideas of what startup leadership looks like. Arguably this has contributed to the stereotype that women of color don’t have the skills to lead startups.

Black women start businesses more than any other group and are a part of the startup world (albeit in small numbers). However, current media depictions of a “tech founder” continue to focus on the “young, white, male graduate or dropout from an Ivy League school” stereotype. In the two seasons of HBO’s popular Silicon Valley, the satire about the northern California tech scene, the only credited role, speaking or non-speaking, held by a Black woman was the role of a stripper called Mochachino. It took Wired Magazine more than 20 years to feature Jessica Williams, a Black woman correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, on its cover in 2014.

How would you know that a Black woman could be a Founder of a startup company if you’ve never seen a Black woman who is a Founder of a startup?

Simply put, people in general, not just women of color, need to see diverse tech Founders with diverse backgrounds and circumstances in order to break the stereotype. More specifically, Black women and other Founders of color must be able to see themselves in leadership roles in order to consider tech as a successful entrepreneurial endeavor. For others, especially those in the investment community, seeing positive images of Black women as tech Founders helps broaden the landscape of valid ideas and diversify the faces behind fundable companies.

At digitalundivided, we’re addressing this directly through #ReWriteTheCode, our upcoming documentary about the intersection of race and gender in tech, are important steps in changing the perception of women of color (Read about our super successful Kickstarter campaign).

That’s why initiatives like Stephanie Morillo and Christina Morillo’s (no relation) 2015 #WOCinTech stock photo project, which produces royalty free stock photos of women of color in tech that can be downloaded and used by any one, is so important. #WOCinTech is a simple answer to a very real problem.

Stock Photo from #WOCinTech

Stock Photo from #WOCinTech

Discussion: What are Some Specific Projects like #ReWriteTheCode and #WOCinTech, that Can be Implemented to Increase the Visibility of Black and Latina Women in Tech? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below

Kathryn Finney