If you listened to my radio show Views From the Top this past Friday (June 4, 2010), you would have heard a very interesting conversation. I had Shireen Mitchell and Chris Curtis on my show discussing Black Women (or the lack of) in Technology. These are two women who are great examples of Black Women who started off in technology early (think Radio Shack Tandy computers that hooked up to the television….wait, I’m dating myself because I was one of those geek girls early on) and spent all of their adult lives in the heart of technology. My path was different in that I went into Recruiting in the technology space, but I still continue to keep a healthy interest in technology.

The heart of the conversation was about the many excuses that companies and hiring managers use to justify or excuse the fact that Black Women are poorly represented in the space. Now I’m an advocate for all women in tech, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m focusing on Black Women. In my 17+ years of recruiting, most of those years in the tech industry, resumes of Black Women rarely came across my desk for technology positions unless they were in web DESIGN or Business Analyst. I’d get the occasional Technical Writer or “Sales Engineer” but anything deeper than that it was a ghost town. Being the type of Recruiter I am, I never waited for them to apply. I would always have to go out and hunt for them. And trust me, it wasn’t very easy in the beginning. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was to get these meaty technical positions and get the same profile of candidate: male, 20′s or 30′s, White or Indian. Sure, I would get the occasional Woman candidate, but more times than not, she was White. The more I noticed that a pattern was developing, the more I counseled my clients to step out of the norm and do something, anything to attract more women of color. I would always be met with subtle resistance. “Well Adrienne, you’re the Recruiter. We’ll leave that to you”. It burned me up to no end to hear that. I KNOW I’m the Recruiter. I can identify your sore spots and bring you the talent you need. But I need some help to do it! One woman shouldn’t be charged with taking on the diversity initiative for a major corporation. Recruiting need buy in, resources and support to build and cultivate relationships with communities and organizations to be able to attract these talented ladies. Yes, I know where to look and build organically. Can you say the same about YOUR recruiting team?

I would try to connect with the Diversity departments and some times they were absolutely clueless. They were more concerned with avoiding discrimination lawsuits, meeting certain “quotas” and providing sound bites to the public. Sure, they would have their marketing departments create the touchy feely warm and cuddly “look we employ everyone and our people look just like YOU” ads. But I knew the truth. My job is to get the most qualified PERSON for the job who can deliver and fits in with the company culture. But it’s also my job (with the backing of the executive suite) to make sure the company gets in front of a cross section of people. But when you have companies that care more about avoiding lawsuits than truly creating a diverse environment, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

But back to the subject at hand. I would really like to see the numbers of Black Women or any women of color for that matter in the hands on development and leadership technical positions at companies like Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Google, Yahoo, etc. Yes, I’m calling names. I NEVER EVER see any visual representation of any Black Women in prominent technology roles. I see them as end users or customers. But never as developers or contributors. Now, I’m sure someone from these companies will come back and challenge me. Bring it on. This is not an attack. I’m just curious about your numbers. I have recruiter buddies and some tech folks (I won’t name names) who share their stories with me in confidence. If you’re worried about who would be telling secrets, maybe that’s a sign that you should be focusing on getting more women of color in the mix, not alienating or ignoring us.

Let’s turn the focus if you will to the media and conference organizers. Are you not looking hard enough for women of color to showcase? Fast Company, Inc, Wired I’m talking to YOU. Hold on now, Black Enterprise, I’m not leaving you out of this. I rarely see a Black Woman tech business owners or executive adequately covered. You have a Black Woman as a Tech Editor! Come on, we need better representation. And hey all you conference organizers, you mean to tell me you can’t find ONE Black Woman to have on panel? Oh wait, from what I understand, one of my associates said that you were more concerned with the “quality of the content and sessions”. Hhhhmmmm. I don’t know about you all, but to me that reads “a Black Woman would not be able to bring anything to the table to intelligently connect with the audience. OK got ya! To the women focused organizations out there, please, I beg you, do a better job of outreach. Start tapping into the women who are fortunate enough to be in the spotlight. Connect with recruiters because they (well some of them) should know how to tap into that market. Have a Black Woman on your board, facilitate sessions, or work with you to drive membership. There are a whole segment of Black Women out there who are frustrated because they feel left out or alienated. Reach out to them and I guarantee your membership will diversify….if you truly want it to.

Now as I said on my show, Black Women please don’t think I’m going on the war path and only pointing fingers are the companies. Because we have a role in this too. There have been many times where I had solid Black Women candidate who opted NOT to go after certain roles because they didn’t want to be part of the politics and bullshit (their words, not mine). They knew that it would be an uphill battle to get hired, then accepted into the fold by their tech comrades. I’ve heard the horror stories, I’ve seen the treachery. But what does not kill us makes us stronger. Now this is for all women. We cannot hide away in the shadows if we want to be recognized for our achievements. I want to see apps developed by Black Women (or Latinas or Asian Women, etc). I want to see platforms and systems created by women of color….hell, by women period! Don’t keep your ideas and projects under wraps. Be proud of what you bring to the table and take every opportunity to show people what you can do. Reach out to other women and start building relationships. Be vocal in meetings. Don’t just sit back and let the “boys” speak at the table. Be heard and respected. I you start feeling left out, minimized or disrespected, nip it in the bud from day one. Continue to upgrade your skills and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. Get better at what you do. And stop denying yourself opportunities because of the likelihood of bullshit and politics.

Ladies make sure you connect with your HR representative and managers and map out your career path. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your path. If you’re gunning for the CTO title, do whatever you need to do to improve your skills, volunteer for projects, network, keep up certifications and training, showcase your expertise and everything else you can do to climb your way to that CTO spot. Let your skills speak for themselves. Open the lines of communication with Recruiters in the tech industry. If you’re in a company where you are under appreciated or devalued, take your skills elsewhere. Recruiters can help you find the best environment for you. And if you don’t find the right fit, take your knowledge and talent and start your own tech firm. When you do, I’ll be that one to find you the talent you need….a diverse cross section of talent, male and female, White, Black, Latino, Asian, etc. The most successful companies with the happiest employees are the most diverse companies.

You can only use how the corporations treat you as an excuse but so long. Own your part in it then work past the corporate politics to excel at your craft. Companies, pay attention. Technology is not just a guy thing. There are plenty of women, especially women of color, who have a lot to offer. Don’t let ignorance keep you from hiring the best.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

When a woman decides it’s time to leave the corporate world and head off for entrepreneurial pursuits, it can be an exciting time in her life. She gets visions of freedom and no boss or time clock in her head. She imagines what it will be like when she gets her first big six figure order. She even thinks about the day when her business is given an award for being outstanding in her industry. The first couple or months or even years are filled with wearing the many hats of the business and facing some hard realities. Then she hits that wall. You know that wall. Where you feel like a tons of pressure is on your shoulders. You’re doing the accounting, the marketing, the networking, the client development, the sales calls, the HR, and every other hat that comes along with running a business. And you stall out. There’s a disconnect between where you want your business to be and where it is at this moment.

Well, shortly after Thanksgiving 2009, 8 phenomenal women took a chance on me, their businesses and themselves and enrolled in the Next Level Business Coaching Program. Each had different concerns about their businesses and were at different points, but the common trait they had was that they were stalled. Between the intensive weekly one on one coaching sessions, monthly group calls, special guest education calls, etc, the ladies initially didn’t know what to expect. But as we got a rhythym going, each started experiencing phenomenal breakthroughs with their businesses. I am so very proud of the success they’ve all achieved and my only regret is that I don’t get to work with them longer. I made a promise to them at the beginning of the program that we would take this journey together and that I would be brutally honest. And I was. While it is a business program, we worked on strengthening their confidence and the way they looked at their businesses.

If you listened to my radio show this past Friday, Views From the Top, I had the ladies on the show (yes all 8 of them) to talk about their experiences in the program. They shared their initial fears, obstacles they had to overcome and the milestones their businesses (and they) have reached. Below is a brief introduction to the ladies and what they had to say:

Mel DePaoli is the president of Omicle, a change management company and author of CONTRACTORS: Doing it Right Not Just Getting it Done. She works with companies on the various aspects of how the core of their business directly affects the perception of their brand, which in turn affects their bottom line.

“Adrienne was a great resource for finding new technologies to help me grow my business. She also is very successful at making you step outside of yourself so you can look at how to approach situations in new ways.”

Quantane Higganbotham is the owner of Virtual Possibilities, LLC. With over 10 years of administrative, customer service, sales and legal experience, Virtual Possibilities, LLC provides administrative support solutions to business owners.  She supports business owners who are looking for me to partner and grow with their business.

“The Next Level Coaching Program has challenged me to take my business to the next level. I appreciate Adrienne for taking the time to direct me and challenge me to not only look at what my competitors are doing, but also what they are not doing. You have no idea how much you have helped me. You have carved years off the development time in relation to my concept. She is awesome. The coaching program is not mediocre. If you are not ready to take your business to higher heights, this program is not for you.”

MaryBeth Reeves is a busy mother of quadruplet 3 year old daughters and the Chief Executive Mamma of Scrapbook Mamma, a custom photo book company. When she found herself without a job a the end of 2008 she took the entrepreneurial plunge.  Scrapbook Mamma makes custom photo books for those who want to do something wonderful with their pictures, but don’t have the time or the inclination to do it themselves.

“Working with Adrienne was the kick in the butt I needed to put my business growth into overdrive. I had stalled in my pursuit of a major development of my company before working with her and I did not even realize it. In 2 months of working with Adrienne, I accomplished more than I had in 9 months on my own. Her direction, motivation, encouragement and deadlines propelled me to the next level faster than I could have imagined. I just hope I don’t lose the momentum on my own.”

Cynthia Coleman is the Founder of Coleman Communications is the media brand of Cynterprise. We have plans for cookbooks, magazines and other print media along with to television and radio broadcasts. Our first release, Sports Cynts, is a sports talk cooking show where listeners can follow along with her as she prepares recipes and engages her audience in sports conversation.

“The Next level Coaching Program has helped me to focus what I need to do to take my business to where I want it to go.  With the information I received, I have no doubt that my company will be a success and I recommend it to anyone who is thinking about starting a business, who’s business is already running and needs a boost or a business who is looking to grow and take it up a notch or to the next level.”

Esther Phahla is a Certified Public Accountant with broad experience in all phases of taxation and accounting . She works with clients in a variety of industries including:- Health care (physicians, etc), manufacturing, construction, real estate, distribution and service. She is interested in small businesses and their owners.

“This Coaching has helped me to get out of my comfort zone and take action in growing my business. By implementing the strategies that I have learned from Adrienne Graham, I have grown personally and professionally.”

Bernie Frazier is the President of CareerVolution, LLC, a career navigating and job search skills training company, Bernie offers a comprehensive curriculum for people who are seeking their next career opportunity but aren’t sure how to make it happen.  She offers effective; “can do” insights that can help jump start a career, propel it to the next level, or catapult it in another direction.

“Adrienne has been a God-send!  Her willingness to share her experiences and ideas has been very valuable in helping me develop my own business.  She has an uncanny way of taking your ideas and stretching them and you beyond the comfort zone in order to reach the next level.  Adrienne is a walking “rolodex” of great resources; it’s remarkable!  I feel much more confident in where I’m going and what I can do, and I know Adrienne has played a key role in bringing this to life.  I can’t thank her enough.”

Kristina Cox is the Founder and CEO of Prime Accumen Creations. P.A. Creations is for business professionals and individuals seeking a lasting impression with their audience and is a one stop shop for marketing, design and communications.  Kristina was named VIP Woman of the Year for 2009/2010 by The National Association of Professional Women.

“The business coaching program has been a blessing. Adrienne was the miracle worker I needed to help me restructure my company. She brought out the six figure mindset that I needed to get to the next level.”

Maisha Hart is the owner of Legal Plus, a boutique staffing company in Los Angeles.  Legal Plus (also known as LP Staffing) has been in business since 1979 placing administrative support personnel with companies both small and large throughout the southern California area.  LP Staffing, offers temporary, temporary to hire and direct hire services and in addition to personnel services, they also offer our clients payroll services.
Now, don’t just think this was all about me “teaching” these ladies anything. It was a learning experience for all of us. They helped me put the finishing touches on this incredible coaching program. From well known special guests to candid conversations to the group interaction, this program is designed for women serious about stepping outside of themselves and focus on doing what needs to be done to get to the next level.

Not everyone can be accepted. There is an application process and only ten women are chosen each quarter. So if you’re ready to take it to a whole other level, stop by the website today and complete your confidential application. Applying is free and everyone who applies is interviewed and screened.

So, are you ready to go to the Next Level?

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.