What IT leaders are doing to boost Blacks in tech
Attuned to racial inequities and the benefits of diversity, some IT leaders are overhauling pipelines, rethinking retention, and encouraging Black IT pros to grow their networks and careers.
As a Black woman with a computer science degree and 30 years of experience under her belt, Lisa Gelobter felt the time had come to use her skills to do something about issues of bias, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace.
“I’ve gotten to a place where my resume is pretty unimpeachable,’’ says Gelobter, whose past credentials include serving as chief digital officer for Black Entertainment TV (BET), CDO of the Department of Education in the Obama Administration, and as a member of the team that launched Hulu. “It’s okay for me to stand up and put my voice and reputation on the line, where folks coming up still have to make their way.”
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That wasn’t always the case. Gelobter recalls dealing with microaggressions and inequalities, such as getting interrupted in meetings when she tried to voice an idea, “and it’s not heard, and then a man or a white person will say something and it’s a brilliant idea.”
She was also mistaken for an administrative assistant “at every company I’ve worked at,’’ even after she became a vice president. “The range of things — of being touched or spoken to inappropriately or talked over or [told to] fetch the lunch — it spans the gamut and it’s constant.”
So Gelobter founded tEQuitable, an independent and confidential platform that enables employees to report problems and seek professional advice on how to respond to systemic issues ranging from the subtle to the overt.
“Living the day to day is no different than it was 30 years ago, which is scary,’’ she says. “There has been for the longest time this … idea that you can bring more diversity and underrepresentation into engineering and tech firms. People have been talking about it since I’ve been in the industry, and yet, the numbers haven’t changed dramatically.”
Black workers have felt the economic burden acutely since the pandemic began. The unemployment rate for Black Americans was virtually unchanged at 9% in January, compared with 6% for white Americans.