On Monday, Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) hosted a one-hour Google Hangout on tech diversity that featured Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, and Anthony Frasier, co-founder of the Phat Startup.
The mission of Black Girls Code is teaching young girls how to code; how to become entrepreneurs and business owners; and how to build websites, apps and other technology. Black Girls Code is nationwide and recently launched in Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, N.C. The Phat Startup is a company founded by Anthony Frasier and James Lopez that focuses on providing information for entrepreneurs. Phat Startup is currently conducting a series of conferences called Tech808. Its next stop is Oakland, Calif.
"Big tech companies are hiring minorities at half the rate that universities produce them," said Payne, who also focused on how graduates of HBCUs are set to play a role in future tech-diversity efforts. He also cited a report showing that there will be 1.4 million tech jobs by 2020.
Frasier and Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant shared their views and gave advice on the tech industry and the lack of diversity. They also gave their views on what might fix the diversity problem.
Bryant mentioned the 3,000 volunteers connected to Black Girls Code and the power of mentoring. "There is a very small number of blacks in the tech industry, but we found a tremendous response from those who are willing to give back and mentor," she said. "I'm working on building the talent pipeline. … What I see with some of the entrepreneurs I meet is that they are not able to get the traction they need. But there is no shortage of good ideas.
"Most of the students who come into our programs have minimum-to-no coding skills when they come in," she added. "We provide the mentoring and entrepreneurship skills. We want them to become owners and creators."
What one piece of advice would Frasier and Bryant give to others?
"Look at something that's a problem as an opportunity," Frasier said. "That's one of the best lessons I've learned."
"Don't be afraid of failure," Bryant responded.
"We plan and plan and plan and plan again before we start and take that first step. That's not necessarily a good approach. We can't be afraid to fail and then get right back up and start again," Bryant said.
Payne, who is a member of the Small Business Committee in the House, also mentioned the need to change the definition of "small business" to include smaller, startup-level companies.
On May 19 the Congressional Black Caucus launched CBC Tech 2020 to bring transparency, education, training and investment to the tech-diversity problem.