These Three Young Black Men Aim to Increase Diversity in Tech Industry

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Joah Spearman, Founder of Localeur
Joah Spearman, Founder of Localeur

According to data from the National Science Foundation, the number of science, math and engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black men increased from 12,857 in 2002 to 18,601 in 2012, and the number of Black men who earn science and engineering doctorates grew by more than 20 percent in 10 years.

Although the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees have increased, Black men are one of the only minority groups not making progress, with only 3 percent of Black men working as scientists and engineers.

There has been an effort to attract more Black men to STEM. One organization, All Star Code, aims to increase the number of Black men in the technology industry by preparing them for full-time employment by providing mentorship, industry exposure and intensive training in computer science. “While I discovered a number of programs that addressed the lack of women in the industry, I did not find a sufficient number of resources for young men of color,” All Star Code founder Christina Lewis Halpern stated on the All Star Code website.

According to All Star Code, African-Americans make up less than 1 percent of startup founding teams. Three young Black men – all of whom have founded their startups – discuss diversity in STEM.

Joah Spearman, Co-Founder and CEO of Localeur

Localeur’s mission is to make it possible for people to experience local wherever they are, whether it’s their home city or a city they’ve never visited. The company does this by building a community of locals who share authentic recommendations on their favorite places to eat, drink and play.

In one of his most recent posts, “Thoughts on Being a Black Founder & CEO in Tech,” Spearman discusses the lack of Black individuals in technology and that the few who are in tech, most likely went the traditional route.

“I think Blacks in tech are precisely where women in tech were 3-to-5 years ago before Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn movement. What I mean by that is that we’re still a few prominent Black individuals and Black founder/CEO led companies away from truly opening the gates for thousands more Black leaders in tech. Right now, if you look around, the leading Black entrepreneurs in SF [San Francisco] and NYC are guys who did go to Ivy League schools or get Stanford MBAs or work on Wall Street or did YCombinator.” Spearman continues to explain that there is not just one particular route into technology.

“Don’t let where you got your degree or your professional background limit you from pursuing that great startup idea you have or from being a difference maker at a fast-growing company.”

Rodney Williams, Founder of Lisnr

Lisnr is a communication protocol called inaudible smart tone technology that sends data over audio.

Williams shared his thoughts on diversity in technology with the Huffington Post. “There are top technology platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook — a little bit less on Facebook, but Twitter and Instagram especially — where African-Americans over-index and were the influencers and were the drivers,” Williams continues. “It’s funny that we tend to be the first users but we’re not the creators. There’s a gap — we want something, we just don’t know how to do it, then someone else figures it out and we become the first to use it.”

André Walters, Founder of Yuno

Yuno is a shopping Web app that rewards users for sharing information about their everyday purchases with others.

Walters discusses the benefits of diversity in technology. “You look around and you don’t see a lot of diversity in tech. I think, as far as how it’s affected my journey, for me it’s really motivating.” Walters says, “I think having diversity is a benefit because we get different perspectives, people come from different places, and coming from those different places, they bring great thoughts and ideas that you may not have otherwise thought about if everyone came from one particular background.”

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