Tech has a diversity problem. Can an app for black professionals help?
- The most underrepresented group in the tech industry is the black population, especially in technical and leadership roles.
- The BYP Network is a new platform helping to shine light on talent that is too often overlooked in industries like tech.
- The network currently has around 40,000 users and is projected to grow to 500,000 by 2021.
It’s no secret that the tech industry has a diversity problem.
Within the largest tech companies, black and latino communities are conspicuously absent, with white and Asian men making up the majority of the industry. The most underrepresented group is the black population who make up 13% of the U.S. population. Tech companies have disproportionately low numbers of black employees, which is particularly highlighted in technical roles — the coders and engineers who power the companies. For instance, at Facebook only 1.5% of the technical roles are occupied by black workers, who only make up a total of 3.8% of all the company’s employees. Google’s stats are even worse. Only 3.3% of the tech giant’s workforce is black and only 2.6% of the leadership roles are filled by black employees. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon show similar numbers.
Clearly, change is long overdue.
The BYP Network
Enter the Black Young Professional (BYP) Network, the new networking site on the block that is taking matters into its own hands to fill this void. Founded in 2016 by Kike Oniwinde, with a new app that launched this year, the BYP Network is helping shine light on talent that is too often overlooked.
“Companies say they can’t find diverse talent or it doesn’t exist, but we’ve proven to them that it does exist and that they’re not looking hard enough,” Oniwinde, a 27-year-old British Nigerian, said to Forbes.
Tonte Bo Douglas, a 28-year-old property manager and writer, heard about the BYP Network in 2016 through Twitter and attended one of its first networking events held in London.
“Being a black young professional myself I knew that this was a needed platform and I had to be apart of what was happening,” he says. “I’ve met people that I’ve known for some years now through the BYP network which have translated for me in collaborations and even paid work which I’ve greatly appreciated.”
Although it’s been branded as LinkedIn for black professionals, the BYP Network has a few differences.
“I wouldn’t say it’s like LinkedIn per se, it has a bit of a Facebook feel to it, but really it’s its own platform entirely,” says Douglas. He explains that the app’s interface feels like a forum with regular posts on the home page, with sections you can move to with their own “portals of content” such as groups.
Yana Binaev, a 29-year-old creative director and photographer, began using the platform during the summer of 2019, says that the BYP Network helps overlooked groups gain visibility in the job market.
“I think that BYP gives an opportunity to be seen to those that are coming from marginalized social groups and very often are not equally seen by the mainstream platforms such as LinkedIn,” says Binaev.
One of the drawbacks to BYP as opposed to a more mainstreamed network like LinkedIn is that it isn’t as well-established in professional communities, and not as many people are using it. But over time that could change. The BYP Network currently has around 40,000 users and is projected to grow to 500,000 by 2021. Right now it works with 60 other companies including Google, Facebook and Airbnb.
Connection and visibility matters
The incentive for tech companies to diversify exists, as does the talent. A large part of what’s been lacking has been networking and visibility. By facilitating important connections between black professionals and highlighting the achievements of members of the black community, platforms like BYP can lead to increased black representation in industries like tech.
“It has been great to have access to seeing black people visibly in high level positions in their relative fields, which is motivating and inspiring for me in my career ambitions,” says Douglas, who notes that in the past he noticed a lack of black people in the top positions of companies he worked for. “This can make it appear like there is an invisible glass ceiling for us where it doesn’t matter how hard we work and what we achieve, certain top levels are out of reach for us.”
When black professionals do get hired at tech companies they often find that their employers lack the tools and metrics to create an inclusive work environment where people from diverse backgrounds comfortable being authentic. By opening a network where black professionals can socialize and bond over shared work experiences, Binaev notes that BYP creates a necessary safe space to those who would have otherwise felt like the “odd one out.”
Ending the racial disparity in tech and other industries will require a multidimensional approach that one company is unlikely to solve on its own. But by linking together hiring managers with black talent in the workforce and creating a space serving the collective black professional experience, the BYP Network is doing impactful work to enhance diversity in industries, like tech, that need to change.