African Americans in IT: 'We Definitely Have a Pipeline Issue'

Don Tennant

In a blog post on Monday-"IT Profession: Peril or Opportunity for African Americans?"- I wrote about an uplifting article that profiled a number of African Americans who are enjoying successful careers as IT professionals in a range of industries. Equally uplifting, I've since learned, is work that's being done to promote next month's Black Family Technology Awareness Week (BFTAW).


BFTAW, to be observed the week of Feb. 13-19, is sponsored by IBM in collaboration with Career Communications Group (CCG), a minority-owned media services company whose mission is to "promote significant minority achievement in engineering, science and technology." During that week, which IBM describes as "a public awareness campaign to communicate the value of technology in the Black community and its importance in educating and preparing Black children for future careers," computer classes, technology fairs and other events will be held not only across the United States, but in Toronto, Sao Paolo and Johannesburg.


Especially noteworthy with respect to encouraging African-American children to pursue careers in technology, and assisting parents in their efforts to help their kids in that endeavor, is the fact that senior African-American executives from IBM will be integrally involved. Five of these executives will be traveling around the country to take part in the events and to convince African-American families to become more active participants in taking full advantage of computers and the Internet. The list is an impressive one, and one that is certain to inspire countless kids:


  • Rod Adkins, vice president, development, Systems and Technology Group
  • Dr. Sandra Johnson, senior technical staff member and chief technology officer, global small and medium business, Systems and Technology Group
  • Lauren States, vice president, technical sales and customer deployment, Software Group
  • Phil Thompson, vice president, Emerging Markets
  • Al Zollar, general manager, Tivoli Software, Software Group


That it's such a high-profile list is important, because their task is a formidable one. BFTAW's literature puts the issue in a perspective that makes the urgency of their task clear:

A large and growing number of America's Black Families are making technology an important part of their daily lives. They regularly use the technologies that affect most facets of their lives. In fact, nearly 50% of Black Families are actively using computers in their homes and close to 30% have access to the Internet at home. These numbers are encouraging but when compared to White non-Hispanic families with computers in over 85% of their homes and home Internet access approaching 60%, the gap is serious, important, and not closing.

I've not seen the problem that stands in the way of closing that gap expressed any better than the way it was expressed by a reader who commented on Monday's post:

Although I agree that racism does exist and I have experienced it personally, I do not agree that this is the reason that there are so few African Americans pursuing careers in IT. I have been very successful in IT since 1986 as a software developer and I have met only 3 African American males during that time. We definitely have a pipeline issue.

Yes, we definitely do have a pipeline issue. And BFTAW is an excellent means of addressing it. Kudos to IBM and CCG for making it happen.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 6, 2011 12:39 PM mataj mataj  says:

Playing "Torches of Freedom" on African Americans now, huh?


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