Black and Hispanic Underrepresentation Plagues Tech, Even in DC


It’s no secret that the tech industry has an inclusivity and diversity problem. If you picture a tech workplace, you might think of a male-dominated startup boardroom or a programmer-packed open-plan office with few-to-no people of color.

New analysis of recent Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program research adds detail and data to that picture. Black people and Hispanics remain significantly underrepresented in tech jobs. Despite the District’s focus on inclusion and diversity, our city hasn’t been immune to this trend.

Across all class levels, 98% of Byte Back’s students are people of color.

In nearly every region studied, Black and Hispanic employment in tech careers is significantly lower than general employment percentages. Nationally, Black workers make up 12 percent of the general workforce; in tech, they account for 8 percent.

Unfortunately, DC is not a positive outlier in this trend. Out of nearly 100 other metro areas, DC ranked 42nd and 51st in underrepresentation for Black and Hispanic workers in tech, respectively.

Data from Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program available here.

Although the overall trend is negative, DC had a 3 percent positive change in underrepresentation for Black people working in tech between 2010 and 2016. Nationally, they gained ground in high-skill tech jobs like computer programming.

But more obviously needs to be done, and there is no single solution. As lead analysis author Mark Muro notes, enhanced computer science education from kindergarten through college will likely be one aspect. However, for Black and Latinx communities that are disproportionately affected by poverty, the issue is more urgent.

That’s why Byte Back’s mission and work mean more today than ever.

Byte Back graduate Behrooz was working several jobs and didn’t have enough to pay rent for his own apartment. He was motivated to make a change when his daughter was diagnosed with leukemia – living paycheck-to-paycheck was no longer an option. After earning his CompTIA A+ certification at Byte Back, he got hired as an IT help desk technician. [See Behrooz’s story here]

Behrooz BakhtiaryMany of Byte Back’s students experience the same barriers that Behrooz overcame – our students are 81 percent Black and 9 percent Latinx, 74 percent are unemployed when they enroll, and nearly a third are homeless.

By offering classes that are free and accessible for all skill levels, Byte Back lowers barriers and helps graduates move into living-wage careers in IT and business administration with which they can better provide for their families.

Ensuring equitable access to 21st century jobs isn’t a matter of charity for Black and Latinx communities. By building a truly inclusive and equitable tech workforce, we give companies access to a wider pool of applicants; we add new perspectives to the design of tomorrow’s products; and we give our communities the means to improve themselves. Inclusivity benefits all of us – it’s time we all work together to make it a reality.