Minority Challenges in Technical Careers
In the world of technical entrepreneurship, minorities are definitely the lesser seen. When the words “CEO” or “president” are mentioned, the image that comes to most is that of a Caucasian man. African-Americans and Hispanics are workers, but hardly ever bosses. Where does this problem start? Adolescence.
Growing up, minority children are less likely to see their parents and relatives in high-power careers. According to Emile Cambry Jr., founder of 21st Century Youth Project, a program that teaches young students to develop mobile applications, educates them about entrepreneurship and connects them with tech-business mentors, “If you don’t hear, ‘your uncle is an engineer,’ or ‘your dad worked in that kind of environment,’ then you’re not exposed to what’s possible.”
These students need to be taught early in life they can, too, work in a technical position. The 21st Century Youth Project shows them they can create something cool and functional even at a young age.
Cambry urges them to “follow that path to becoming leaders in their schools and communities.”
In a recent blog, Cambry attempts to tackle the explanation as to why there aren’t more minorities in technical entrepreneurship:
Education. While not trying to say that there are a lack of highly educated minorities, Cambry mentions that most of the great leaders of the world (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, etc.) grew up with either perfect resources and timing or a parent with a technical background. Most minorities don’t grow up in this kind of educational environment and are therefore hindered.
Funding. Many venture capitalists choose the companies they invest in with trends. Software designed to show investors where successes come from and what is popular is a huge part of investing. These venture capitalists overload one industry, and according to Cambry, this sort of selective bias accounts for a portion of why minorities never get to the table to discuss term-sheets.
Mentorship. African-American and Latino venture capitalists are hard to come by. While many African-American and Latino leaders claim to mentor, not many have attempted to pitch for venture capital or raised a venture with high growth. The lack of mentors with this type of experience deters young minorities from being successful technical entrepreneurs.
Cambry says the 21st Century Youth Project’s mission is to engage and expose students to these paths as early as possible so they can potentially develop a love for programming and be united with like-minded individuals.
“Working with some school systems, it’s baffling to me how schools are slow to adopt our program, something that’s free for students and school districts alike,” Cambry says. “With minorities adopting smartphones at the fastest rates, wouldn’t it only make sense to instruct us to create for the platforms we consume?”