The goal of Afrotech’s executives conference in Los Angeles on Saturday is to increase black representation on boards and higher echelons of companies like Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and others.
“The conversation goes from ‘hey, we need to get black people in tech’ to now ‘hey, we have to get black people to the board level,” Morgan Debon, founder and CEO of Blavity, told CNBC. “We need to hire black people at the highest levels of these tech companies, who make the big decisions for the platforms we use every day. “
Blavity is the digital media group behind Afrotech Executive and other platforms and events.
Morgan Debon, Founder and CEO of Blavity, behind Afrotech, 21Ninty, Travel Noir, Shadow & Act and Blavity News.
Afrotech Executives is an extension of Afrotech, the nation’s largest conference for black tech professionals.
“The Afrotech framework will be for someone who has over 15 years of experience,” DeBon said. The event will feature panels and working groups that will foster high-level discussions on policies and long-term changes in technology and beyond. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman will appear as a speaker. Executives from Salesforce, Microsoft, Stripe and other companies will also be in attendance.
Huffman told CNBC: “This event is a great opportunity to meet people who we think are involved in Reddit as executives, potentially as executives, potentially as board members. “I think it could be really valuable to be able to turn to Afrotech for this type of support.”
About 9% of tech workers in the US are black, according to Pew Research
But the latest Variety reports from the nation’s biggest tech companies show, for example:
- About 3% of Google executives are black
- About 3% of managers and directors at Microsoft are black
- About 5% of executives on Facebook are black
- And about 4% of Apple executives are black.
Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, several tech companies, including Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple, donated to fight social inequality and increase black representation in their numbers and ranks. committed to. .
DeBaun said that in the months since these engagements, many companies have turned to AfroTech to help diversify their leadership and AfroTech Executive is designed to facilitate this process.
“In the wake of George Floyd and the social justice movement, I turned to our employee resource group ‘Black People Reddit’ to hear their perspective and the pain they are feeling,” Huffman said. . “I think that as people, as businesses, as citizens, we need to solve some of these difficult problems together.”
“We wanted to create a shorter, more intimate experience for decision makers to meet informally, connect with other like-minded businesses, who really care about these issues.” and really care about race fairness within the tech space, ”DeBon said.
“I think because of George Floyd and the increased awareness, executives, when working with executive recruiters, require them to look at their resumes and recruit searches for a lot of black applicants. want to see, ”she said.
Ebony and Jet Magazine CEO Michelle Ghee, who will also be a speaker at Saturday’s event, is leading these former black publications in the transition to a digital-only platform.
Ghee told CNBC it was an exciting opportunity to join with other tech leaders to advocate for greater black representation on boards and in the C-suite.
“We have to create pressure not only during the day, but after that. How do we follow up? How do we build some kind of alliance? How are we going to monitor? ” he said. “We need to keep pushing companies that want us as customers but don’t value us as employees, don’t value us and offer us a seat at the table.”
DeBaun said it’s a process that will take some time, but she sees progress.
“Now is a great time to be a black man in tech,” she said. “More and more people are getting pay raises that they’ve earned and deserved; more people are getting equity packages than we’ve ever seen before. There is an increased sense of responsibility and accountability that is happening behind the scenes [human resources departments] Within these big tech companies.
“Leaders are held accountable for the environment they create or do not create for their black workers, so we’ve come a long way,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but I’ve seen a lot of progress over the past year and a half. “