According to a 2014 USA Today report, many of the top universities in the nation turn out Black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them.
In recent months, tech giants released the number of minority employees to the public, revealing that Black people are the least hired demographic. Many of those companies such as Pinterest and Twitter have launched a variety of tech initiatives that specifically target African-American prospective employees. In truth, these initiatives are moving at a snail’s pace. But Black people have taken more expedient action.
Programs such as HBCU Hackathons have tapped into the thriving reserve of tech graduates and students coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In fact, HBCUs graduate approximately 20 percent of all Black students with computer science degrees every year. But according to HBCU Hackathons, diversity reports from the top tech companies continue to find that fewer than 5 percent of their workforce is Black.
On the weekends, the organization goes to HBCUs and creates a space for coding, design and networking with other like minded people to create businesses in the tech field. So far, out of the 106 HBCUs, there have been hackathons at Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morgan State University and Howard University.
The program is led by Monique Woodard, the executive director of the diversity-in-tech nonprofit, Black Founders. Created in 2011, Black Founders hopes to build the foundation necessary to cultivate a culture of innovation in the tech space that Silicon Valley won’t be able to ignore.
“You see a lot of companies paying lip service about diversity, but when you talk about HBCUs there’s some pushback. That’s not where they’re recruiting,” Woodard told BuzzFeed News. “They are still looking for a Stanford student, a Harvard student, an MIT student — they just want that person to be black now. That’s not always realistic. Why not work with the engineering and business schools at HBCUs as well?”
Black Founders provides resources in the form of advice, mentorship, funding and initiatives like HBCU Hackathons.
For more information on HBCU Hackathons, visit their site.