On July 25, 47 tech companies, 35 higher education leaders, congressional staff, and civil society members alike gathered in the offices of a Washington, D.C., law firm for The Second Annual Diversity in Tech Summit, sponsored by the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Caucus.
The Summit represented an opportunity for industry and public sector employees to take part in an honest forum, making real progress towards a common goal — creating a stronger tech industry that not only includes more HBCU students and alumni, but empowers these individuals to advance in fulfilling technical careers.
The Summit was organized by Rep. Alma Adams’ (D-NC) office, who co-chairs the caucus in the House, alongside Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL). At the start of the day, organizers highlighted the three key priorities the HBCU Caucus aims to facilitate through its work: rigorous and relevant curriculum development, investment in the research and infrastructure at the colleges, and industry-HBCU partnerships.
At the beginning of the day, a breakfast panel, featuring representatives of major tech associations, defined the current framework of policy issues and solutions. Victoria Espinel, president of the Business Software Association (BSA), provided insight into many of the challenges the industry has yet to overcome and emphasized the potential of coalitions to provide a united front among companies.
Private and public sector representatives proceeded to find common ground while exploring these challenges; industry representatives expressed their desire to recruit more of these students; and institutions of higher education described an appetite for meaningful cross-sector partnerships that inform curriculum relevant to current industry needs, internships and job opportunities for students, and support for the cutting edge research being conducted at many of the 102 HBCUs in the U.S.
Also taking part in the day’s conversation were myriad, bipartisan, Congressional members. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) discussed the work being done within the House Financial Services Committee’s newly-created AI Taskforce, while Rep. French Hill (R-AR) spoke to how he organized Arkansas’ first statewide HBCU conference and emphasized the importance of high-quality administrators in facilitating meaningful partnerships with industry.
The HBCU Caucus also facilitates the HBCU Partnership Challenge, which calls on organizations to make commitments to better serve the students of HBCUs. Upon joining the Challenge, AnitaB.org committed to intentionally support HBCU stakeholders, and all women of color, through proactive partnerships, increased representation, and targeted inclusion in our various resources and offerings, including at Grace Hopper Celebration. Many AnitaB.org Partner Companies also take part in the Challenge, including: Intel, Amazon, Dell, Airbnb, Microsoft, Bank of America, IBM, Allstate Insurance Company, VISA, Zillow, and SAP.
Why it Matters
HBCUs have long served as the cornerstone of Black education in America. While HBCUs represent less than 3 percent of colleges and universities, they graduate 42 percent of the nation’s African-American engineers and 50 percent of all black professionals. Despite a history of marginalization and levels of investment that have not matched predominantly white institution counterparts, HBCUs have continued to deliver high-quality education, create rigorous STEM research portfolios, and consistently graduate some of the highest numbers of black STEM professionals, positioning them as a critical partner in creating a stronger and more diverse tech industry.
You can learn more about the HBCU Partnership Challenge here. If your company is interested in joining the momentum and taking the challenge, they should reach out the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. The Caucus remains active in hosting events and developing legislative goals throughout the year, including at a convening of the “HBCU Braintrust” at the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference.