In a LinkedIn live event last week, research firm Info-Tech Research Group revealed the main career challenges that Black tech professionals face in 2023, and the responsibilities that companies have in ensuring a comfortable and inclusive work experience for everyone.

The event was a preview discussion of an online survey that garnered responses from 633 IT professionals, 25 per cent of which were from Black professionals. The survey results will be released by Info-Tech at the end of February.

Info-Tech’s research director, Allison Straker, and senior product manager Ugbad Farah said during the event that the key objective of the survey is to zero in specifically on the Black professional experience in tech, which can be very different from that of other ethnic groups.

The survey asked respondents not only how they saw themselves, but also how the world sees them, as this discrepancy can reveal much about the struggles and level of job satisfaction that Black tech professionals experience.

The survey revealed that only 23 per cent of all Black respondents said they were satisfied with their jobs. Job satisfaction in general, however, remains low, with only 34 per cent of respondents from other ethnic groups reporting being satisfied with their jobs.

However, Straker pointed out that it is difficult to determine causation and not just correlation between identity and level of satisfaction with just the results of the survey, but deeper conversations with some respondents suggested lower satisfaction among Black professionals.

Furthermore, the number of barriers to career advancement reported in the survey were higher for Black professionals. 

Farah explained that one of these barriers is microaggression, a statement or incident that sometimes unintentionally causes discrimination to a marginalized group.

Seemingly innocent questions like ‘why is your hair so different?’, or ‘can I touch it?’, ‘Where are you from? But no, where are you really from?’ are examples of those microaggressions that can accumulate and contribute to poor mental health among Black professionals.

When asked what’s important to them, Black professionals deemed safety and recognition as less important, in contrast to other ethnic groups. Basic needs like safety are key to achieving higher needs like self-esteem and self-actualization, hence, better mental health, Straker explained, referring to Maslow’s hierarchy – a classification system, depicted as a pyramid showing the core needs of an individual, with the lower tiers of needs being key to achieving the higher tiers.

Black tech professionals also consider their work relationships with their managers as less important. But Straker underlined the fact that Black professionals are not a monolith and everyone’s work relationships can be largely unique. Yet, “for many, they [safety, recognition or work relationship] are not as important because there are other issues that they need to address first.”

The research also showed that Black tech professionals (55 per cent) are more likely to report they have had no career advancement or promotions within their career.

“We kind of thought to ourselves–maybe they’re less experienced, that’s why they’re not getting those promotions and those advancements. But no, it turns out, even Black professionals with 20 years of experience are not advancing the same as their peers,” stated Farah.

Solutions, according to Farah and Straker:

More diversity in leadership can increase satisfaction among Black tech professionals
Mentorship and sponsorship programs to advance careers of Black tech professionals
Encourage conversations, especially difficult ones about goals, concerns, areas of improvement, etc. This can help Black professionals to be their authentic selves at work
ERGs (Employee Resource groups) are not a substitute for individual mentorship. ERGs are great for groups to come together and talk about things that they can all relate to but mentorship or a sponsorship can help one individual navigate a corporate environment with the support of a leader. “If you could do both–amazing. And if you can’t, ERGs is always a great place to start,” said Farah.
Remote work has helped with job satisfaction for many reasons, but it should not be a means to escape an office culture or a bad environment. Companies have a responsibility to work on their office culture, even if it is remote or hybrid.
Zero tolerance policies are sometimes necessary to allow a culture to change and ensure that it is accommodating and comfortable for people to come to, if acts of discrimination happen.
The post Research reveals career challenges faced by Black professionals in tech: Info-Tech first appeared on IT World Canada.

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