Closing the Gender and Diversity Gap in Tech: A Conversation with Shireen Mitchell #BlackSTEMLikeMe

I had the pleasure of sitting down with my Geek Diva, tech superwoman, sista friend, Shireen Mitchell to talk about gender equality and diversity in STEM. If you don’t know Shireen, here is your chance to get to know her. If you do know her, here is your chance to get to know her a little better. She is a pioneer in the advancement the STEM for girls, women, PoC and WoC and she always, “keeps it real.”

An American entrepreneur, author, technology analyst and diversity strategist, Shireen Mitchell is the founder of Digital Sisters/Sistas, Inc and Stop Online Violence Against Women. Below she shares our chat about the tech gender gap and digital racial divide.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN STEM? Good question. I don’t know that I chose STEM. I was gifted with my abilities and a curiosity at a time when people were saying to me “What are you doing?” They were questioning how I knew what I knew and why things came so easy to me. I was a sick kid, so I wanted to become a doctor. Being terrorized by a medical professional, I wanted to make sure other doctors wouldn’t terrorize young kids like myself. The natural state for me was very analytical and technological. So, I started out with video games. Then I started hacking.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A GIRL IN TECH? The concept of a girl in tech was far and few between in the 80s. But it was the highest point when women started entering the tech field. Research shows that women made up 36% of the tech fields during that time. Now, in 2017, we are down to 22 – 30% women. That’s not even counting black women and girls.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WORKING IN TECH? The biggest challenge is in hiring practices and policies. That is where the pipeline breaks. It’s the “I don’t see gender” and “I don’t see color” mentality that is the break in the pipeline. For women of color, both those things are consistent. We are having these conversations about Hidden Figures. What we did during that time was remove those women from the timeline, and we started to believe what was presented to us instead of the data and what the leaders in tech were saying. It was a false narrative, and it still is. It’s an illusion that women and women of color, in particular, don’t have the ability to be leaders in tech. A white 20-something dropout being considered an ideal leader in the tech industry is a completely false narrative. When we talk about Hidden Figures, we know who had the intelligence. We also know who has been removed from the storyline to allow the false narrative to populate.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER BLACKS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN STEM? They need to know they have the capacity. Learning STEM is the easy part. The part that we haven’t handled is the social part and the bias it perpetuates. I would also tell them not to let anyone tell you that you don’t know what you know. Don’t let anyone deter you from building your base in tech. Create a space for yourself. Use a model that only you have, and you can change the industry by who you are.

What challenges have you overcome in your STEM Career?

This post originally appeared in the NSBE #BlackSTEMLikeMe website

Photo Credit link here.

Introducing #BlackSTEMLikeMe: Reflection of Black Excellence. An Exciting New Campaign from NSBE

Have you heard all the buzz about the movie “Hidden Figures” that hit theaters nationwide on Jan. 6? The movie tells the story of how three African-American Women — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — contributed vital math, engineering and computer science work to the early missions of the U.S. space program. “Hidden Figures” (which is up for several awards and was No. 1 at the box office during its first two weekends) is bringing a major focus to the often overlooked contributions of the black STEM community.

Like the “Hidden Figures” movie, NSBE, in partnership with Air Force STEM, is also bringing a major focus to African Americans in science, technology, engineering and math with our new #BlackSTEMLikeMe (#BSLM) campaign. This multimedia campaign will:

  • Encourage black men and women in STEM to share their stories and passions
  • Bring visibility to the important work they are doing
  • Show black boys and girls that a future in STEM is an incredible—and attainable—career path
  • Encourage black students and professionals to consider NSBE for additional support as they pursue their STEM goals
  • Celebrate our unique, wonderful and life-changing community—past and present!

We have great things planned for #BSLM…

Including events during Black History Month and Engineers Week in February, and we are confident it will help us reach our “Be 1 of 10,000” Campaign goal to graduate 10,000 African-American engineers annually, with bachelor’s degrees, by 2025.

We’re so excited about this new campaign and are proud to take a big step toward ensuring that the Katherine’s, Dorothy’s and Mary’s of the future get their due well before they’re overdue!

How Can You Be Part of #BlackSTEMLikeME?

  • Share STEM stories on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or via the blackstemlikeme.nsbe.org website using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag. The best stories will be entered in our national social media webisode series. More on our webisodes to come!
  • Tweet your STEM story using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag. Don’t forget to use visuals!
  • Post your STEM story to your Facebook page, tag the NSBE Facebook page using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag
  • Post your STEM photo or video to your Instagram account, tag @NSBE and use the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag
  • Email your story and video for blog posts to blackstemlikeme@nsbe.org
  • Or, contact me directly with ways you can get involved.

Look for your post that may be featured here.

Learn more about the #BlackSTEMLikeMe campaign, including upcoming events and other ways to get involved, at blackstemlikeme.nsbe.org.

Dealing with Diversity and Tech… or the lack thereof

20120310-075335.jpg

There is no shortage of conversations surrounding Blacks In Tech at SXSW 2012. Day one kicked off with the panel Blacks in Silicone Valley: The Aftermath.

In CNN’s fourth installment of their “Black In America” series, CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien explored “The New Promised Land, Silicon Valley.”

Over the course of nine weeks, O’Brien followed a technology-focused accelerator program designed to help eight African-American digital entrepreneurs, who share a three-bedroom house in Mountain View, Calif., in an effort to secure funding to establish their businesses.

At SXSW, O’Brien brought together a handful of those digital entrepreneurs to talk about the aftermath of the show. The biggest takeaway? While Blacks in tech have come a long way, there is still a long way to go! How do we get past the diversity bias? We have to work together and become leaders.