Navigating the Tech Industry as a Minority-Owned Business

By
Anne Woappi –  CTO
Elise Woappi – CEO


 

There are many hurdles to overcome as a startup founder. Hurdles such as financing your business, acquiring users/customers, marketing your company for the world to know of, expanding your resources to sustain operations all while balancing your mental and emotional health. These challenges are proven to be difficult regardless of who the founder is; yet the degree of difficulty varies based on who the founder is. A men-led startup will face different obstacles than a women-led one. A minority-owned startup will face different obstacles than a white-owned one. The challenges are can be subtle and sometimes outright dominant.

Being black women in tech means knowing that when we walk into a room, the bias may be apparent in how we’re treated, criticized, examined, and sometimes rated. The opportunities for business growth that are presented to us are sometimes limited in comparison to our male counterparts. It certainly means that we often have to and are expected to work twice as hard to get the same outcome as our white counterparts. It is important to differentiate between being a woman in tech vs. a man, and a black woman in tech vs. a woman because in order for the tech industry to truly be innovative and inclusive, we must first acknowledge that there is a racial and gender disparity that cannot be overlooked. This racial and gender disparity masks itself in many ways, often making it challenging for those fighting for an equal world to make a lot of progress.

How racial and gender disparity are present in the tech industry – our observations as black women:

  • A funding source is open for minorities. Of the applicants: the majority are black-identifying, some are brown-identifying, and a select few are of East Asian descent. Of those selected to receive the funds, less than 1% are black. As black women, this is troubling as we struggle to understand why the funds were disproportionately allocated.
  • An event is created as a means to form an opportunity for diverse conversations and networking for entrepreneurs. The event hosts and organizers put more effort targeting non-marginalized groups and/or specific genders or career paths. This form of advertising and marketing limits the selection pool for the attendees and sponsors of the event.
  • A co-working/networking community is developed to bring networking and diverse resources to gender-specific or racial-specific founders. The cost of entry is abnormally high, the selected applicants are not diverse in experience, race, socioeconomic status, and/or physical stability.

How we navigate the industry:

  1. We lean on each other. The struggles and challenges that we face, we face together. We pull from our own experiences, knowledge, and guidance to lead our business as a cohesive team.
  2. We apply, apply, apply. No matter what our fears or setbacks may be, we always make sure to submit applications for opportunities that target our demographic as founders. We apply to accelerators, incubators, conferences, summits, panels, retreats, and other funding or networking sources whenever we fit their target applicant demographic.
  3. When we’re able to, we attend and participate in all startup discussions regardless of the target demographic. The resources shared in the world are meant to be consumed by all! We refuse to limit ourselves when our vision is so grand.
  4. We maintain a positive, self-reliant, and hardworking attitude. For every application we submit, every event we attend, every grant we apply to, 100% effort is always given or executed. Our best may not be the best out of all applicants combined, but it is our best and we’re content with that.

A few resources/communities we utilize:

Never let the obstacles and naysayers change your course of action. Remain secure and confident in your approach to lead your company. You are not the first to have faced discrimination, bigotry, sexism, etc…and you most likely won’t be the last, but it’s important to always be THE person who rises above the hate and carries on.

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