19th October 2022

Black in Tech: Positive Action to increase diversity in tech

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Mark Watson Chief Executive

@Mark_Watson1 Linkedin

13% of the London workforce is Black – but only 3% of the London tech workforce is Black. We want to change that.

Our first Black in Tech event, in association with Breakthrough and Beyond Recovery, exceeded all expectations with over 150 registrations and over 70 attendees. We were impressed with the range of attendees – some already working in tech, some qualified, some coming to learn for the first time, and some brought along by their mum!

We provided Jollof Rice, grilled chicken and a range of drinks from the Caribbean and West Africa – we didn’t want to just welcome people to our office – we wanted our office to feel welcoming.

Although we did very little marketing and organised the event in just a few weeks, it was incredible to have attendees from such diverse backgrounds. What was immediately obvious was that there were a lot of very talented people in the room. 

There is a digital skills shortage in London, yet 33% of young Black men are unemployed.  The barriers to entering tech are low, and the tech industry needs more diversity. The purpose of the evening was to find ways to make the tech sector more welcoming to Black people, to hear from those who had jobs in the sector what needs to change and to provide advice, support and training for anyone interested in considering a career in tech.

Many attendees commented that they had never considered a career in tech or viewed the tech industry as very white and middle class; there were certainly many examples of the tech industry not being very welcoming, and recruitment agencies were highlighted by many people as discriminatory. 

One attendee described the tech industry as ‘that pub you walk past’ – it doesn’t look like your sort of place; they aren’t playing your type of music; you look through the window and don’t see anyone like you. If you approach the door, the staff are unwelcoming, and you’ve seen them turn people like you away. When you eventually get in, no effort is made to make you feel welcome, and no one talks like you – you feel you don’t fit in. So you sit there waiting for someone else like you to walk through the door or leave. 

Those working in the sector said they often felt isolated – one attendee was the only Black person in a team of 300 – ‘imposter syndrome’ was mentioned on more than one occasion.

However, the speakers were truly superb, and it was clear that the audience immediately related to them – Chantal was a successful singer/songwriter before teaching herself how to code – she told the audience that no one ever told her that coding was an option, but she is now a Front-end developer.

Daniel was a fitness instructor before using his savings to attend a coding  Bootcamp – he started his course with zero knowledge in January 2001 and was offered a full-time permanent position as a Front-end developer with Fat Beehive on 1st July 2001. The barriers to entry into the tech sector are low – Daniel went from zero to being employed in the UK’s 8th Best Place to Work in less than six months. 

We have written to all attendees that registered an interest and will organise a series of introductory workshops on different career options in tech. We have ten Fat Beehive scholarships available, providing a free six-month part-time training course (taught at the Fat Beehive office).

We will be organising regular Black in Tech networking events, again hosted at our office. 

We hope the event will inspire some attendees to consider a career in tech – it has inspired us to set up the Fat Beehive Academy, funded by Fat Beehive, to support and train more Black people to get jobs in tech.

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