TLA Black Women in Tech is launching a book filled with stories about 51 black women in the technology sector, aimed at giving young people access to the role models they might need to encourage them to pursue a tech career.
Once the book, The voices in the shadow, is published, TLA Black Women in Tech aims to distribute 300 copies of it to schools in the UK and Ireland for free.
Flavilla Fongang, founder of TLA Black Women in Tech, said: “I grew up without seeing any aspirational black women despite my mother. Moving to London, I saw more successful black people than I ever saw in Paris.
“My ambition was elevated. We often only believe in what we see. Without improving representation, the less fortunate are often the ones left with limited aspiration. So, I decided to create this book to revive hope. The voices in the shadow illuminates the voices of under-represented talented black women, so we can impact the present and the next generations.’’
A lack of visible and accessible role models is often cited as a reason why young women don’t choose to pursue technology careers – some girls say they don’t choose tech subjects because they think they are “too hard”, and also have misconceptions about the types of people who choose tech careers because they don’t see other people like them involved in the sector.
But once girls do quit science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, they often regret it later, and young women would like to have more encouragement from women already in the sector.
There is also a lack of diversity in the UK’s tech sector. Research by the BCS recently found that women account for 17% of IT specialists, and about 2% of IT specialists are from a Black, African, Caribbean or Black British background.
TLA Black Women in Tech believes its book is part of the solution to these problems by helping to make young people, and young black women in particular, aware of people like them in the industry and therefore potentially see a future for themselves in tech.
Once the book is launched on 28 October 2021 during the UK’s black history month, TLA Black Women in Tech will distribute copies to 300 schools across the UK and Ireland, which in time should reach more than 120,000 students.
The not-for-profit has also introduced a “pass it on” scheme, which means once a student has read the book, it will be passed on to someone else.
The project also hopes to reach those already in the workplace, as well as those starting their tech career and those who have not yet decided on their career path.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is backing the project, and digital minister Caroline Dinenage said: “It’s important that children know they can do anything in life, and books like The voices in the shadow can help them discover new role models and inspire them to aim for the stars. We are committed to working with the industry to create a more diverse tech sector, which is positive for society, makes good business sense and helps ensure tech works for everyone.”
The voices in the shadow is looking for backing on kickstarter until 10.59am BST on 13 September 2021.