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Seattle mayor encourages companies to hire people of color at inaugural Black Tech Night

From left: Google Cloud Senior Staff Engineer Abuna Demoz; F5 Senior Manager Carl Mosby; Zillow Manager of Programs – Early & Emerging Talent Makeda Hope-Crichlow; and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. (GeekWire Photo / Nate Bek)

Tech companies can benefit from hiring Black employees because of the grit they bring, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said at the inaugural Black Tech Night in downtown Seattle Thursday.

“I looked at what they had to do to achieve their levels of success — the impediments they had to overcome,” Harrell said of people of color that he appointed as civic leaders. “I want that kind of talent around me.”

He added: “One of the best things you can do is actually put people of color in positions of power.”

The event was hosted by A Space Inside, a new gallery and community space that is part of Seattle Restored, a program that helps highlight local BIPOC entrepreneurs and artists.

The goal of Black Tech Night is to be a monthly networking hub for Black people with corporate tech jobs to network and share experiences, said Sierra-Leone Jones, founder and CEO of A Space Inside.

“It provides a safe space for people to be vulnerable,” she said. “For people to have the courage to talk about what’s going on at the workplace that they might not say to their white co-worker.”

A Space Inside Founder and CEO Sierra-Leone Jones. (GeekWire Photo / Nate Bek)

Even as the quantity and variety of tech jobs has grown over the past two decades, “the technology workforce has not evolved to reflect the makeup of the American workforce,” noted a McKinsey report published this month. McKinsey cited data showing that Black workers make up 8% of employees in tech jobs.

Another recent report found that Black professionals make up 3.7% of technical roles at large tech companies.

Seattle-area giants Amazon and Microsoft have pledged in recent years to hire more Black workers.

Black employees make up 6.6% of the core workforce at Microsoft, and 8.5% of corporate employees at Amazon.

Harrell answered questions at the event Thursday from a group of panelists including Google Cloud Senior Staff Engineer Abuna Demoz; F5 Senior Manager Carl Mosby; Zillow Manager of Programs – Early & Emerging Talent Makeda Hope-Crichlow.

Proceeds from the event went to Seattle’s B.U.I.L.D., a grassroots organization focused on empowering Black men. Through its Black Wealth incubator, it provides funding and entrepreneurial mentorship to Black-owned businesses.

Last year, the program distributed grants to 20 startups and organizations. The incubator plans to distribute grants up to $3,000 this year, Founding Member André Franklin said.

Black-founded startups were disproportionately impacted by the venture capital slowdown in 2022. Their share of the market declined from 1.5% in 2021 to 1.1% in 2022, according to Crunchbase data. Deal count slid from a high of 419 deals in 2021 to 260 in 2022, down 38%.

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