Why Aren’t There More Minority Owned Edtech Companies?
It’s time to talk about what everyone knows, but what no one wants to say. Edtech companies are overwhelmingly male and white. The problem with this demographic, specifically in the realm of edtech, is that the US public school education system is diverse. In fact, there are more minorities in schools than white students.
The National Center for Education Statistics report, “In fall 2014, the percentage of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools who were White was less than 50 percent (49.5 percent) for the first time and represents a decrease from 58 percent in fall 2004. In contrast, the percentage who were Hispanic increased from 19 to 25 percent during the same period.” These percentages are expected to continue this trend with more minorities receiving a public education.
Now, what does this have to do with Edtech companies? Quite a bit. First, it suggests that the majority of edtech innovators are not representative of the students that are designing the technology for. Second, it suggests a problem within education where minority students are not being pushed into this career field. Finally, it brings funding issues to our attention.
A Lack of Funding
Let’s face it. Startups require a significant amount of funding up front. Unfortunately, this is an area where minorities do not have access to as many wealthy contributors as their white peers. The founder of BET, Robert Johnson explains “the lack of initial funds hurts emerging minority entrepreneurs the most since many startups get that initial boost from ‘friends and family’ rounds or from people within their local community. But many just do not have access to a network of people able to spare the cash, and the lack of diversity in startups means less minority-owned companies are able to scale.”
Not Engaging Minorities in the Classroom
While minority students are receiving public educations, minority students do not appear to be engaged in computer technology courses. There are multiple reasons for this issue. First, schools with higher minority populations may not have as much access to technology. In this case, students will not have access to the tools they need to excel with computers and technology.
Next, edtech companies tend to be started by individuals with advanced degrees or computer science degrees. As the TechEdvocate writes, “in 2013, a study showed that out of all of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science through 179 prestigious universities, 4.5 percent were awarded to black students, and 6.5 percent went to Hispanic students […] Couple this with the low number of black and Hispanic students participating in the AP Computer Science exam in high school, and that fact becomes more apparent. Since black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in technology-oriented education, they will be underrepresented in the information technology workforce as well.”
However, Edtech is aware of its problem with diversity. Thankfully, there are Edtech companies that are making the necessary changes to improve hiring and recruiting practices. Additionally, we are beginning to see companies, such as Black Girls Code, that are aimed at diversifying the Edtech community.