Investing in Women of Color to Transform the Tech Sector
with Dwana Franklin-Davis of Reboot Representation
Over the past decade, rates of Black, Latina, and Native American students earning computing degrees dropped by one-third. A lack of gender diversity can have negative implications for not only individual organizations, but the entire tech sector.
Dwana Franklin-Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Reboot Representation, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the coalition’s commitment to double the number of Black, Latina, and Native American women who earn computing degrees by 2025, and share actionable recommendations to help tech companies close the gender gap.
Feb 28, 2023
Anderson: Black, Latina, and Native American women have historically been underrepresented in tech, making up only 4% of students graduating with bachelor's degrees in computing. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The Reboot Representation Tech Coalition is hoping to double the number of Black, Latina, and Native American women who earn computing degrees by the year 2025. And they plan to do it by pooling philanthropic dollars from tech companies. Joining me to talk all about this is Dwana Franklin-Davis. She is the coalition's chief executive officer. And, Dwana, thank you for being here.
Franklin-Davis: Tetiana, Thank you for having me.
Anderson: So, I want to start with the problem. I mean, people donate money to good causes all of the time, but that doesn't necessarily mean that those dollars are getting to the places where they're actually doing the work. Contextualize the challenge you face with that issue.
Franklin-Davis: When we were founded on the heels of our report, we were trying to understand what corporations were doing with their philanthropic dollars. So, if you imagine 32 amazing companies were surveyed, representing $500 billion in revenue, $500 million in philanthropic giving, and they were only spending 5% of their philanthropic dollars on women and girls in tech. And less than 0.1% went to Black, Latina, and Native American women and girls in tech. So the action of being intentional with regards to where those dollars are going to go could have led, in 2017, to more women in the pipeline or pathway coming into those corporate spaces.
Anderson: So this is where Reboot Representation comes in, obviously. Why is pooling tech dollars really the best way to ensure that they get to where they need to go and help people?
Franklin-Davis: Being able to pool those philanthropic dollars is going to make more of an impact on those organizations that are traditionally under-resourced and under-funded. And, also, we know that no one organization created the inequities that we see today, and so being able to come together in a collaborative way to make that impact is critical.
Anderson: So, you're talking about impact, but what impact areas specifically?
Franklin-Davis: Black, Latina, and Native American women are 16% of the population, but only 4% of the graduating population in computing. So we need more women in computing. We need more women everywhere, but being able to say we're going to intentionally invest in the areas that we were saying that we have a problem and being able to wholeheartedly support them along that journey is what is going to be necessary and key.
Anderson: How important have you found that it is to target this group early?
Franklin-Davis: Yes, it's critical that we start early. It's that early access, that early exposure that is going to inspire young girls to be able to have the interest and the desire to pursue those fields once they become of age and are interested and also being able to see themselves in the places that they aspire to be.
Anderson: And once they're educated, there is the issue of retention, right? I mean, it's my understanding that women in tech classes have a 37% dropout rate. So how are you ensuring that they stay so that they can achieve success in the field of tech?
Franklin-Davis: Yes. One of the key aspects to that is building community. As a personal example, I was a computer-science major when I was an undergrad and I changed my major my junior year. And it wasn't that I couldn't do it. I had already accomplished three years and had successful internships under my belt. But it was a very lonely environment. And so had I had some of the organizations that I now invest in at that time during my path, I probably would have stayed.
Anderson: So, I know that people are going to want to know more about what you do and how you do it. What's your website?
Franklin-Davis: Yes, encourage everybody to come and check us out. They can find us at rebootrepresentation.org. They can also find us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Anderson: Dwana Franklin-Davis of Reboot Representation, thank you for joining us.
Franklin-Davis: Thank you for having me.
Anderson: And thanks to you for watching, as well. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.