WIP Dwana Franklin-Davis

A guide to increasing the percentage of Black, Latina, and Native American women in the tech industry

A conversation with Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO, Reboot Representation

In this episode of Work in Progress, I am joined by Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO of Reboot Representation whose mission is to double the number of Black, Latina, and Native American (BLNA) women in the tech industry by the year 2025.

I sat down with Franklin-Davis at the Aspen Latino Business Summit in Washington, D.C. in early September.

Reboot Representation Tech Coalition was launched in 2018 by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates’ incubation organization, which advocates for expanding opportunity and accelerating equity through high-impact investments and partnerships.

It was a direct response to the small percentage of women of color graduating with computer degrees and working in the tech industry.

“BLNA women in 2017 represented 4% of the graduating population, and that number was down by 33% from the previous decade and wasn’t projected to double to 8% until the year 2052 without interventions,” explains Franklin-Davis.

Pivotal and McKinsey surveyed 32 corporations representing $500 billion in revenue and $500 million in philanthropic giving to determine what they were spending on women and girls in tech.

“It turned out they were spending 5% of their philanthropic dollars on women and girls in tech, and less than 0.1% went intentionally to Black, Latina, and Native American women and girls in tech. So the magic number – I got my air quotes around magic – the magic number from that less than 0.1% way back in the day 2017 was $335,000. That’s it,” she says.

Eleven founding companies joined with Pivotal to form Reboot Representation to increase representation and investment in BLNA women in tech. Today there are 23. In a new report, Reboot says their partners have helped increase the number women in the field, but there is a long way to go.

“The number of computing degrees awarded to BLNA women nearly doubled between 2016 and 2021, but continued intentional investments will be required to sustain and propel these efforts,” according to that report.

Franklin-Davis tells me, “I am ecstatic to watch the numbers of BLNA women graduating with computing degrees. We’ve almost reached our doubling goal. We’re almost there. So, that is definitely something to celebrate. But also, I don’t want to give the pat on the back to say we’re done because although we’re watching the actual numbers increase – which is beautiful and amazing – the percentages are only slightly nudging up, which is not good enough.”

Even with that progress in the graduation rates, the industry representation is heading in the opposite direction.

“The numbers of BLNA women in the industry are going down at the very moment that graduation rates are going up. So, we have a graph that looks like a very visible X and that is alarming. That’s what keeps us up at night, which is why we produced this second report because we want to make sure that corporations have the tools they need in order to make the minor adjustments to work smarter and not harder and be able to effectively recruit, retain, and advance a diverse workforce.”

The new report offers up nine suggestions to guide companies seeking to encourage and retain that more diverse workforce, including adding more BLNA women.

Franklin-Davis and I discuss those suggestions.

Find out more in the podcast, which you can listen to here, or download and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 287:  Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO, Reboot Representation
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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