Personally having been a mentor to black students at Oxford, Cambridge and a number of other Russell Group universities, this was nothing new to me. Last week another picture emerged, less viral, of a group of 16 young black women at Oxford University. It got me to thinking, “What is it about these images that inspires a lot of sharing on social media? Why is it even necessary to share that content?”
In the news the reportage of black academic success is quite limited. To be honest if it isn’t newsworthy or tapping into that meme of a poorer background, single parenthood or any of those other “succeeding against the odds” story then why should media pick it up. The thing is this though, what social media channels have done is flattened the reporting of success. You are no longer depending on the editorial whims of a mainstream broadcaster or top newspaper to share news. You are tapping into a more narrow demographic with people who share similar values and critique similar sociopolitical discussions. This makes it more targeted.
Our vision at UKBlackTech is to highlight excellence and the depth of talent within the black tech community and to continue doing for much of the foreseeable future. Signposting and celebrating the success of professionals and also create space for a hugely underrepresented demographic to bring their voices out. Whether it is through our podcasts, written profiles or signposting incredible talent we are passionate about making sure the narrative around success in the UK technology scene isn’t limited to one or two stories.
The Cambridge and Oxford pictures represent a seldom told story but one that exists anyway and to be sure will be replicated across universities around the UK. Our aim is that we can do the same for technology.
Watch this space.
Race in the workplace can be contentious but it doesn’t have to be. These conversations that may be difficult but it doesn’t mean that they should be avoided.
Over on our social media platforms we recently put up a post asking for members of the BAME involved in tech to answer a survey for us. It was a specific survey to a specific demographic that is about collating representation of people in different roles and across different industries.
On our Facebook page we had a numerous amount of posts by people claiming we were racist. We were asked what would happen if someone set up a UKWhiteTech. Then they went into other rants about Muslims, etc. Race is difficult for a lot of people to contend with.
Quite recently the McGregor Smith Review was released. This report looked at the impact of racial equality across the workforce. It recognized that even if in principle “every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, should be able to fulfil their potential at work” and that “there is the business case as well as the moral case”, often companies fall short.
One of the most prominent findings in the report was that “There is discrimination and bias at every stage of an individual’s career, and even before it begins. From networks to recruitment and then in the workforce, it is there. BME people are faced with a distinct lack of role models, they are more likely to perceive the workplace as hostile, they are less likely to apply for and be given promotions and they are more likely to be disciplined or judged harshly.”
The link to the full report is here. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/race-in-the-workplace-the-mcgregor-smith-review
Now why is this relevant to the UKBlackTech mission? We are all about inclusion. It is not about, as some fear, about putting a priority or having some kind of positive discrimination because of someone’s race. It is not about shutting out the majority demographic of white people in tech. Rather what we are all about is having a conversation, sometimes uncomfortable, which addresses why some of the problems exist and look to solutions. Pretending the problems don’t exist do not solve the issue. It is not about blame but about developing leadership narratives and cultures which support a fairer playing field. So let’s talk but most importantly let’s listen and then act.
Yes, yes…. I know it’s not good practice to put dodgy grammar in the title of a blog post, but I think it’s important that we keep it real at all times – so you’ll bear with me on this one.
So yes, 100 years seems like a long time and it is, kinda…Certainly in the life of a human being 100 years can feel like a long time.
One of the most famous 100 year old’s is the legendary Actor Kurt Douglas – and he recently wrote a post about the similarities between the rise of two every charismatic leaders who were initially ignored, but wreaked absolute havoc on either side of the Atlantic, and 70 years apart…
One of whom is consigned to the history books and seems so long ago. One very much looming large in our psyche and sight today. And yet he was alive (and cogniscent) to see them both. So actually 100 years is not as long as it may seem.
What we do know is that actions from 100 years ago have changed the landscape of our world beyond recognition – and that’s exactly our intention with the 100 year plan for UKBlackTech. That in 100 years time, the world should NOT be the same, that the difference made was by design rather than default.
At the UKBlackTech Launch event, one of our Co-Founders Mark Martin outlined a 100 Year plan based on 5 Cornerstone principles:
Participation – Because ‘to create is to own’ and change requires needs to be owned and carried by many hands if it is to success and truly make a difference
Visibility – Because so often ‘seeing is believing’ and to see amazing black professionals in places we never knew they were tells those coming behind that not only is it possible, but it has already been achieved.
“It’s easier to reach for the stars when you see someone like you sitting on the moon”
Community Building – Because the power of ‘umoja’ is so important, it takes a village to raise a vision, to keep it burning and to ensure that the blaze burns bright long after you are gone
Generational Economics – demonstrating a new way of thinking about financial independence, literacy and freedom to ensure a long-term sustainable plan and a legacy is left
Self-Sustainability – where we are the ‘captain of our ships’ invictus style – being the master of your fate is both a privilege and a responsibility which requires serious mind shift to ensure that it’s not only done well, but done with an ‘everybody wins’ mentality.
So I was excited to hear the 100 Year plan unveiled because to me it is:
A huge responsibility – and the chance to make real and significant impact and contribution far beyond my individual goals, dreams ideas and plans – but in there is also…
A huge privilege – To join such a talented, driven and passionate group of people who make success seem inevitable, it completely recharges things for me on a whole new level.
Designed for Different thinking – It takes a bold group of people to say, we are going to make changes that we won’t get to see or enjoy ourselves, but we trust and know it will be enjoyed by those coming up behind those coming up behind us. In 100 years I’ll be long gone –it creates a different mindset to think about things that last. Things that grow… no longer just sparks but blazes.
To Benefit us Now as well as those in the future – and contrary to what you would expect, a 100 Year plan doesn’t just benefit things in 100 years, It has real tangible, transformational benefits for those of us involved TODAY. It makes a difference TODAY. It changes things TODAY – we are also privileged as it will do the same for those coming up tomorrow. And yet I have seen messages, where I can see others don’t share my excitement (and that’s ok… we don’t have to all agree)
But there seems that there are a few misconceptions that I think it’s important to clear up, so just to clarify, a 100 Year Plan is not (or ‘ain’t’ as the title suggests…
An excuse to wait for 99 years before we see any change… 100 Years of a plan need 100 years of progress, 100 years of milestones – there is no time to lose or think that we can wait until the deadline is close before you start doing anything about it.
Only about the future… it is also about a different way of thinking, working, acting collaboratively and planning ambitiously, but doing so today. 100 year plans start today.
Wishy washy or irrelevant… perhaps the long lead time makes it seem like it has no bearing on life today, but that is not the case. The articulation may improve overtime, but the intentions are crystal clear and definitive and it’s important that clarity and definition increases over time.
Gonna happen without us working together – the plan is not about just you or me, but is about ‘us’ and ‘we’ and it’s easy to get side tracked or think that it’s someone else’s problem, plan or dream. Actually this plan is going to take us all.
We need you all.
Those sold of the vision to carry it with us
Those skeptical, to keep up clear, definitive and relevant.
Those who’ll disagree to make sure we stay on track and to push us to be better.
The 100 year plan is a plan that’s going to take us all….I am proud to be part of this dynamic and ambitious initiative in spite of my unconventional relationship with tech.
I’ve put my proverbial hand to the plough… will you?
If you do a Google Images search for ‘techie’, ‘working in tech(nology)’ or similar combinations of, you’ll be hard pressed to find an image of anyone ‘black’ much less UK and Black. It’s no wonder why in 2017 there is still a lack of diversity in tech, in the UK.
Or is there?
Dr Margaret Casely-Hayford (Advisory Chair of Ultra Education, Board Member at Co-op; Chair ActionAid UK) published an article on Linkedin titled 2017: Let’s learn something from the arrival of the Donald (click here for the full article) in which she said:
In 2017 I would like to see the D word (Diversity) if not replaced by, then energised and turbo-charged by the P word. Participation.
Essentially, diversity is no good without inclusion, which is no good without participation. Unlike diversity or inclusion, the P word levels the playing field and focuses on the equal contribution from all parties regardless of race towards a defined goal.
We could argue that all businesses are ‘in tech’ and are at the very least ‘powered by’ tech. The funny thing is, working with children and young people in business we see them ‘participating’ in technology by default. They already consume tech heavily but now it’s the job of the tech industry to take them ‘under the hood’ of their apps, games and devices to connect their understanding of tech to employment or business.
You won’t have to look too far to see children and young people in the UK broadcasting themselves across YouTube or Snapchat. Those who can make the connection use those platforms to sell a product or increase their ‘celeb’ and social equity. Now, to a corporate that’s a valuable skill they currently buy in but really it should be developed and retained.
The ultra cool ‘Chicken Connoisseur’ used a tech platform with some snazzy editing to capture the attention of millions of young people across the nation. Isn’t that the kind of skill that businesses, entrepreneurs and big corporates should be developing and looking for more of?
Maybe that’s obvious, or maybe the problem is little focus on a pathway in tech for the next generation of young, black techies who believe they can be themselves and still be valued in the world of business.
Julian ‘The Ultrapreneur’ Hall of Ultra Education