Black History Month

The Black@ Facebook London community organised a special version of their monthly #ThirstyThursday event, to focus on Diversity in Tech, at Facebook office, 1 Rathbone Square at 6pm on Thursday October 18th. #BlackHistoryMonth

Welcome Address
Adwoa Baah explained the background of Black@ Facebook and gave the 4 pillars “Support.Educate.Grow.Celebrate’ with a presentation of the group’s activities in UK & Ireland. Facebook also had the Talent Engagement manager present for those who were seeking roles in tech. FB has opened applications for Ldn_Lab, its London-based startup incubator.

Introductions to Black Tech Diversity Groups:


Adwoa explained the Agenda with the representatives of Tech communities given the platform to share their goals and vision for 2019.

@ukblacktech mission is to chronicle and change the narrative of black tech and support corporates to establish good practice. Co-Founder Mark Martin @urbanteacher

@MuslamicMakers Founded 2 years ago as a creative space for muslim tech & creatives, they are now growing their team with expansion plans to Manchester. Co-Founder Arfah Farooq @Arf_22

@wearestripes Advocacy in the creative sectors with mission to create diverse workplace and grow talent pipeline. Currently have 150 mentors in their community. Co-Founder Nene Parsotam

@Colorintechorg They presented  FTSE Tech Diversity report 2018 and explained their mission to make Europe the most inclusive tech hub in the world.  Co-Founder Ashleigh Ainsley @akainsley

@wittycareers They equip Black & Minority Ethnic Women with skills to succeed in Tech and support them into recruitment. Co-Founder Simi Awokoya @similola

#BlackGooglersNetwork They run several programs and have been established 10 years. 2019 goals include working with Google Assistant Team and Google EMEA focus on Africa

@TLAAfrica is dedicated to strengthening cooperation between the London tech ecosystem and its counterparts in key African markets. Co-founder Emem Rita Usanga @ememrusanga


Panel Discussion

Next on Agenda was a panel discussion about tackling diversity and inclusion problems, which was moderated by Adwoa Baah. (L-R)

Adwoa Baah Experience Designer, Facebook
Mark Martin  Cofounder UKBlackTech
Suki Fuller   CEO, Salaam Ventures
DionneCondor-Farrell Senior Developer, TfL
Ashleigh Ainsley Co-Founder Colorintechorg
Melanie V Eusebe  Chair, Black British Business Awards

The panellists introduced themselves and gave a brief background before going into discussion.  Points made:

1. There is a need to change the mindset and narrative when discussing black tech communities.
2. We need to find ways to engage with tech corporates so they don’t take our initiatives as PR and Box ticking exercise.
3. Recommendation would be to ask for 5 year plan and budget to show commitment to their D&I initiatives.
4. Plan to avoid ‘D&I fatigue’ during Black History Month whereby a ‘Calendar Year’ of Events are crammed into October month by supporters.
5. Use a three pronged approach for engagement; Awareness. Advocacy. Action.
6. Try not to get labelled strictly under the ‘BAME’ label, e.g. Simply say “I have candidates from a varied background.”
7. Discussion about the value & impact of allies and sponsors, had varied opinions as regards the merits, since this would need situational judgement.
8. We should be mindful of the use of ‘black excellence’ term, since a consequence could be putting too much pressure on self, leading to mental fatigue. Find some remedies to avoid the micro-aggressions in the workplace.

There were some memorable quotes from the panel also:
1. Our journey towards improving diversity in Tech is only 1% done.
2. We are like submarines… we only come out at Black History Month!
3. You must go out and do great things, giving others a helping hand too.
4. We need more women and people of colour in tech.”
5. Hard work is great but you can’t be who you can’t see.

Black Facebook question

Audience Questions
Advice given in response:
1. Ignore those who are negative and undermine you. Anything is possible, you just have to believe in yourself!
2. Ensure you build and grow an effective support system in the workplace. “You are the One we have been waiting for”.
3. Work smarter and map your way to the top in a strategic manner. Get sponsors within the organisation, and let them use their privilege on your behalf when you are not in the room.
4. You need to have allies, across board, and lean into the fold. Learn to have open conversations.
5. Avoid being labelled aggresive and work within the mould to be assertive, but not compliant.
6. Ensure you have several mentors, who can address the various skill-sets you need to grow. Get them to open doors for you.

ROUNDUP: Attendees were encouraged to stay behind and get allies in the room. Tell the story of your journey and build on helping the next generation.

For an hour before and after the event confirmed pop-up shops were in attendance:
Afrocenchix (hair); Chalk Jewellery; Nusula Na (art); Kai Collective (clothing); Kussen Clothing; MDM Flow (beauty); New Beacon Books; Rahana Banana (art); Vitae London (watches).
It was a great display of black enterprise.

SPECIAL THANKS to Black@ Facebook Organiser Adwoa Baah and her team for curating this event.

LBAcademy is a UK Business Growth Hub that provides digital skill and talent training to Tech & Creative Startups for high growth.