Saying ‘F*** It, I’ll Do It’ as a Black Woman in the Tech Industry
The following is a speech adapted from our F*** It, I’ll Do It: A Celebration of Cincinnati’s Black Women event on February 22. Check out all of the stories on video here.
Disclaimer: This post contains some strong language.
First, I would like to start by saying how incredibly honored I am to stand here tonight. During my time with you, I am going to share a bit about my experience as an African American woman in the tech industry.
The percentage of African American women in this industry is incredibly low. Though technology is looked at as one of the most innovative and rapidly growing industries, it remains stagnant in regard to diversity and inclusion. For instance, women make up 26% of the computing industry, and of that, only 3% are African American. This percentage is steadily dropping due to lack of opportunity for growth and acceptance.
As a unicorn in the industry, I have endured my fair share of discrimination and uncomfortable situations that come along with the tech workplace.
My very first position out of college was as a technical writer, right here in downtown Cincinnati. In adopting this role, I was the only African American within the company, and the only other female that worked in our office was the receptionist. As a new college graduate, this was a lot for me to take in.
For instance, women make up 26% of the computing industry, and of that, only 3% are African American. This percentage is steadily dropping due to lack of opportunity for growth and acceptance.
After my first few weeks with the company, I noticed that my coworkers became incredibly comfortable with their “water-cooler” banter. These conversations would include racially and sexually offensive language. I also began to notice that the team of all males that we partnered with in Bangalore were not responding to my emails or meeting invites. When I notified my coworker of this, he was very dismissive and told me that it was merely due to a cultural difference and their discomfort in working with women. This dismissive and nonchalant attitude left me with no other words, but “FUCK IT, I’LL DO IT.” I would push the envelope further and make my presence known and respected.
This type of experience would not be exclusive to this company. Fast forward eight years, and I have moved on from that company, undertaken a senior position, completed my MBA and my masters in technology management – all while being a single mother. Though the statistics can be glaring and discouraging, I have decided to remain in this industry to kick doors in for others. The greatest lesson I have learned is to never allow anyone to place me into a glass box.
After hearing all the stories tonight, I hope that you leave here feeling encouraged and empowered. No matter what race you are required to run, what industry you’re in, or whatever hurdle may come your way, get up, shake yourself off, and say not only “Fuck it, I’ll do it,” but “Fuck it, I’ll finish.”