Tech is one of the most lucrative industries to join. In 2021, U.S. tech salaries averaged above six figures. Software engineering managers, product managers, and data scientists are all positions where you will make over $100,000 per year, just to name a few.
More Black women are pursuing degrees in STEM than ever before. With median wages for Black women in the United States at $36,303 per year and nearly 1 in 5 Black women living in poverty, it is no wonder why the tech industry, known for its high wages and the opportunity for economic prosperity, is becoming an increasingly more attractive sector for Black women looking to enter. And while that has been a reality for many who have entered tech from marginalized communities, Black women have a more challenging time reaping the benefits of the tech industry’s financial advantages.
Of the 25% of women who work in tech, only 3% are Black women. And women of color continue to suffer the most significant pay gap compared to their white male colleagues. According to a 2022 report from Hired, the wage gap for Black women widened to $0.92 for every $1 a White man earns, a decrease from $0.94 the year prior. With pay inequality rooted at the foundation of employment for Black women in tech compared to peers, it is clear that the opportunity for financial gain in tech is not the same.
On top of being paid less, Black women have historically had difficulty finding employment and career-elevating opportunities in tech due to the industry’s biases against women and people of color. Racial and gender stereotypes mean Black women face double the hurdles when confronted with recruitment bias. And though some progress has been made, it’s nowhere near equitable. Over the last two decades, there has only been a 2% increase in the number of women hired as software engineers. Within the last seven years, the representation of Black professionals in the tech sector has only increased by 1%.
Underrepresentation of Black women in tech hinders their ability to enter the field and enables discriminatory practices that keep Black women from obtaining positions with the highest wages. Approximately 48% of women in STEM jobs report discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process, and 37% of women of color in tech say racial bias prevents them from advancing their careers. And for Black women founders in tech, it is tough to find funding that can take their companies to the next level as they receive less than 0.35% of all venture capital funding.
The wealth associated with tech is harder to achieve for Black women with student debt, financial caregiving responsibilities, and lower wages compared to colleagues who may make more money than you with more social support and fiscal advantages.
Due to marginalization in the labor market, even within tech, Black women have the most difficulty paying back student loans. Given competitive hiring in tech, many Black women seeking to enter the tech field pursue a college education that saddles them with student loans they will spend years struggling to repay. Black women graduate with an average of $37,558 in student debt and take longer to pay it off due to lack of employment and being underpaid.
Accumulating personal wealth, even in a high-paying career, is challenging when you are financially responsible for many others. Throughout history, Black women have been socialized into being caretakers at home and in their communities, from forced caregiving labor during slavery to being disproportionately concentrated in low-wage, long-term care roles such as aide occupations. Black families experiencing higher rates of poverty, less upward mobility, and more downward mobility means they are twice as likely to live in multigenerational homes than White Americans. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not affordable for many Black families, thus creating the need for Black women to assume financial responsibility for their parents and grandparents while raising their own families. In 2021, about 4.27 million Black families in the United States were cared for by a single mother, thus emphasizing how Black women commonly own sole responsibility for providing care.
To the Black women currently in tech or interested in pivoting to a career in tech, you are needed and wanted in this industry. Though the financial reality may feel discouraging, your innovation and contributions actively shape an improved landscape for Black women technologists worldwide.
Without Black women in tech, we wouldn’t have Valerie Thomas’s illusion transmitter she invented during her career with NASA, which scientists still use today to create modern medicine and technology tools. Black women pioneers like Shanea Leven, Founder, and CEO of CodeSee, a tool developers use to automate data analysis, demonstrate the revolutionary impact you can have in this industry and the world more broadly.
Representation can open the doors for people to imagine a future in environments previously considered unthinkable. You belong here.
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