When it comes to black women entrepreneurs, the US tech industry’s white dudes still dominate
This article is the third in a series examining how Black women in the tech industry are faring.
In this series, we’ll explore how tech companies, both white and black, are disproportionately hiring black women as CEOs.
We’ll look at why that might be, what it looks like from a business perspective, and how black women are far more likely to be hired as co-founders, CFOs, and chief technology officers.
In January, we wrote about how a company called Kinkos, which makes cute little vibrators for women, was looking to hire Black women as cofounders.
The company wanted to hire women with no prior experience at technology and it was looking for a white man who had worked at tech companies before.
The CEO of Kinkotas, Amanda Cote, explained the company’s reasoning to me: “It’s about diversity, it’s about inclusion, and it’s really about a community that’s been built around this company.”
So how do we do that?
The problem is, most of the tech companies I’ve spoken with aren’t looking for candidates with any prior experience in tech.
They’re hiring white dudes who have experience in the technology industry.
Cote explained that the company had one of its first hires in December of last year, a young woman who was a former CEO of a tech company called Crayola, who had experience at both of those companies.
In fact, Cote said that Kinkots’ first female executive would be her first cofounder.
Coke said that it’s been a while since the company has hired anyone other than a woman.
When I asked about the company hiring Black women, she told me, “We have not had to, because we have a very strong and committed network of women.”
“We are a company that is very diverse and has a very open and diverse workforce,” she said.
Cote told me that the only person she’s ever had to explain to was that she was hiring for a different role.
“Our culture is really, really inclusive,” she told TechCrunch.
“Our diversity is about not just having diversity, but having inclusion and diversity and inclusion and inclusion.”
When I asked Cote about why Kinkoto had hired a Black woman, she said, “I think it’s a good example of diversity and not just being inclusive, but also having a sense of humor and a sense that diversity is not the only part of our diversity.”
Black women make up approximately 11 percent of the workforce in the US, and the gap between Black and white women’s representation in tech is still huge.
Black women make only 6 percent of US tech employees, compared to 9 percent of white women.
In order to make a company more inclusive, Cope said that the Kinko team was also looking for people who were people of color.
“I just think it would be a really good representation of the diversity of our company,” she explained.
“If we had more Black people, we could be more inclusive.”
For instance, when I asked why Kinks was hiring a Black female CEO, Coe told me:When I reached out to Kinkoshos for comment, the CEO was unavailable.
However, when we reached out for comment to Cote at Kinkomaniacs, she wrote:We will be launching a series of interviews this summer with a number of Black women leaders in the Valley, and we will be conducting our own diversity training and outreach to the company in the coming months.
It’s something that we want to do.
Cotes response to this question also came with an implicit assumption about what the interviewer should know about Black women.
She told me she wanted the interview to include the “uncomfortable part” of Black female tech: that is, what she called “the uncomfortable part” that some women have about how to get hired in tech companies.
But, she added, she’s not looking to talk about that.
“If you’re uncomfortable about the question, then you’re not a qualified candidate, but if you are uncomfortable about what’s going on around you, that’s not a legitimate reason,” she wrote.
“When you’re a person of color and you’re trying to work at a company, you don’t have to be afraid to say, ‘I’m uncomfortable, this is wrong,'” she added.
“I just feel like there are so many women of color who are working in tech, and they’re not able to say it out loud.
I just think there is something that is happening that’s really not being talked about.”
But there is a more subtle issue at play.
The problem with Cote’s answer to this, which seems to imply that the interviewer was looking at what she wanted to hear about the black women at Kinky, is that it implicitly assumes that they are looking for answers to these uncomfortable questions.
“It is not that we don’t want to talk to