“First, organizers of these tech events need to consider diversity while planning their speaker schedules,” Sibyl Edwards, president of D.C. Web Women, explained to theGrio. “Planning ahead will give them time to find and secure people of color for key speaking slots and panels — and not only those panels pertaining to diversity. Unfortunately, many conferences and events are locked in before the organizers notice it is lacking women and African-American speakers. I can’t tell you how many times conference organizers reached out to me just days before the conference asking for a recommendation for a woman or African-American to speak at their event. Diversity is treated as an afterthought.
“Another problem: in an attempt at diversity, event [and] conference organizers keep drawing from the same well,” she continued. “That is why you see the same small handful of African-American techies speaking at various events over and over and over again. There is no attempt at finding fresher voices. A huge part of the problem is the fact that many of the thought leaders in the tech community are not in contact with many African-Americans in tech. Whether that is by choice or due to external factors is up for debate, but I have attended a number of tech events, and I will say that most of them have few people of color in attendance. This simply needs to change.”
Indeed, Edwards’ observations about tech sector events could easily be applied to radio and television appearances, print articles and more regarding African-American inclusion. We agree with Edwards — this must change.
Potential industry rock stars need visibility as a vital part of the equation that drives their brand. Having a voice is key, particularly at tech industry events and in the press. Still, in 2013, is the “M.I.A.” factor for people of color in tech — whether it is participating on panels or attending conferences — is a big issue. Let’s begin to change this disparity right now with this article, which will help out the next time the women and people of color need to fuel diversity can be found.
Here are 10 people to watch in the digital space that we bet the mainstream tech community has overlooked. Hip, bright, innovative, provocative — and now made even more visible. Yes, there are cutting edge people of color and women in tech. Spread the word…
Lauren DeLisa Coleman is part of the new technorati-to-watch. She is a mobile strategy specialist and analyst specializing in the convergence of Gen X, Y with hip tech platforms, and the author of the new e-book, Rise of the Smart Power Class. Follow her on Twitter at @mediaempress.