Across the US, only 8 percent of employees in tech — and only 3 percent in executive positions — are Black, a 2023 State of Tech Workforce study shows. Locally, a committee of nine Black tech professionals are working alongside The Enterprise Center to change that.
More than 70 Chattanoogans gathered recently for the first local Black in Tech panel discussion and happy hour at Waterhouse Pavilion. For panelist Malcolm Harris, Partner Success Manager for Galactic Advisors, the turnout is an indication both of potential opportunity as well as the growth of Hamilton County.
“My heart was so full,” Harris said. “The city is changing – having Waterhouse Pavilion packed with people who look like me is indicative of the number of eager and skilled residents we already have who just need opportunity and maybe some guidance. Everything from insurance to transportation to arts to tourism involves the tech space and it’s important to understand the potential of that.”
Panelists Chantee Boykin, an EPB senior manager, and Tremaine Powell, Ph. D., Dean of Engineering and IT for Chattanooga State Community College, agreed with Harris.
“It’s important for girls to see someone who looks like me speaking passionately about my career,” Boykin said. “To dream it, you have to be able to visualize it.”
A State of Tech study by CompTIA shows that the direct economic impact of the technology sector in Tennessee alone is estimated at $18.3 billion, making it imperative to address the lack of diversity now.
For Powell, originally an aspiring professional athlete who was sidelined with an injury, understanding the range of opportunities within the tech space is also critical. In his role as dean, Powell addresses these inequalities by helping others understand the possibilities within the tech space – including future roles that may not exist yet.
“I wish Malcolm had a Malcolm growing up. That’s why I think we’re all so eager to be that person for others – especially because it’s hard to be comfortable in a space where so many people don’t look like you,” Harris agreed. “We have the opportunity for Chattanooga to be a hub for what is to come in the tech space. Thinking about the impact on individuals as well as socioeconomically, there is just so much potential for growth. Stick around, sit tight, and get ready.”
To get involved with future local Black in Tech initiatives or find out more, reach out to Kevin Love at The Enterprise Center at [email protected].