JFF and Comcast NBCUniversal Release New Report Highlighting Innovators Advancing Black Talent in Tech

JFF, a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems, today released a new report identifying 14 trailblazing organizations working to increase the number and proportion of Black Americans in high-earning technology careers. 

Developed with support from Comcast NBCUniversal, the report—Purpose-Built to Advance Equity: Expanding Opportunities in Tech for Black Americans—is rooted in an analysis of more than 200 startups, educational institutions, nonprofits, and other programs focused on the development of Black talent in technology.

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“To disrupt historic patterns of occupational segregation in technology, we cannot ignore the systemic barriers to access and advancement that begin in K-12 schools and persist in communities and in the workplace,” said Michael Collins, vice president at JFF and a lead author of the report. “The most successful models are not only helping Black talent build skills and secure employment, but also making long-term investments in mentorship, social capital, and networks that enable Black professionals to access—and sustain—careers in technology.”

Despite the explosive growth of new tech jobs, Black professionals continue to be underrepresented in the industry, comprising 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, but just 7.4 percent of the tech workforce. Black women combined account for just 3 percent. According to a recent JFF survey of more than 1,000 Black adults, more than 6 in 10 not working in digital or IT would consider a career change to work in the sector. However, more than half reported they were unsure where to start (55 percent) or felt they lacked the financial resources (51 percent), skills (52 percent), or industry connections (45 percent) to launch a tech career. 

JFF’s report identifies new models of career preparation, technology training, and career advancement that are working to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the technology sector. To assemble the findings, a team of researchers analyzed the work of more than 200 companies and organizations, assessing them based on innovations, program outcomes, and their ability to help Black talent and leadership in tech jobs and industries.

“This analysis provides a new level of insight into high-impact models of education, training, and career development that can accelerate pathways to careers in tech for Black talent,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast Corporation. “Just as importantly, this report provides recommendations for how policymakers, companies, and communities can help create the conditions for Black professionals to advance in technology careers – from career entry to leadership.”

The analysis was conducted with the guidance and insight of an advisory council of Black leaders in venture capital, technology, philanthropy, and education. Based on the evaluation of the current landscape of programs, the report identifies 14 “Innovators to Watch,” all of which are Black-led or founded and focused on helping Black Americans advance in tech careers and industries. 

With JFF survey data suggesting that 55 percent of Black Americans reported never having a career mentor, many of the organizations identified through the scan also have a dedicated focus on providing mentorship and support from other technologists of color.

The Innovators to Watch (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that has provided software development training to more than 30,000 Black girls ages 7 to 17 to help them get started on journeys that could lead to careers in tech.
  • Black Tech Pipeline, which provides recruitment services that connect Black technologists to companies with diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments.
  • CodePath, which provides college students with no-cost coding courses, mentorship, and career support to prepare them for careers in tech.
  • Code2040, a nonprofit community of Black and Latinx tech professionals offering internships, mentoring programs, and professional development opportunities for early-career technologists.
  • /dev/color, a peer mentoring community that provides a safe and positive environment for Black technologists to support and learn from one another.
  • Ed Farm, a Birmingham, Ala.-based nonprofit working to address gaps in K-12 and adult computer science education, with a model that includes wraparound supports like participation stipends and device grants.
  • Eskalera, developer of a digital platform called the Inclusion Index that offers large and midsize employers insights about the effectiveness of their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
  • Girls Who Codea nonprofit that creates pathways into tech careers for girls and young women and advocates for gender equity in K-12 computer science and has taught 450,000 girls to code.
  • The Hidden Genius Project, a nonprofit which helps young Black males build the experience, networks, and technical skills to succeed as technologists, leaders, and entrepreneurs.
  • Kanarysa platform which offers employers a data-driven approach to improving their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
  • Mentor Method, which matches learners and workers with mentors to help them forge relationships and build the social capital they need to advance in their careers.
  • Onramp, a skills-based hiring platform that creates new career pathways for jobseekers who may get overlooked in traditional hiring processes.
  • Opportunity Hub (OHUB), parent holding company of a suite of businesses committed to increasing racial equity in the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Praxis Labs, which is pioneering the application of virtual reality to help organizations build more empathetic, equitable, and inclusive workplaces.

To learn more about the report and all of the Innovators to Watch, view the full report here.

Comcast NBCUniversal’s partnership with JFF is part of Project UP, the company’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help build a future of unlimited possibilities.