#ProjectDiane is a recent initiative launched by digitalundivided that is using data to solve tech's diversity problem
Tech is the living, breathing example of a Catch-22. Diverse founders don't receive crucial seed funding to grow into viable businesses that lead to an exit (in the case of a startup, a purchase or an Initial Public Offering/IPO). Yet, an exit is necessary to create diverse investors who have the capital to invest in the next crop of diverse startup entrepreneurs, thus creating a "pattern" that makes it increasingly harder for diverse founders with diverse ideas to enter the startup space.
digitalundivided's #ProjectDiane disrupts pattern-matching in tech startups by identifying diverse women founders, with a focus on black women, of tech-enabled companies.a It enriches the diversity of the current tech pipeline by collecting and utilizing data to build programs that grow the number of startups led by these founders.
Launched in February 2015 from an idea by one of our FOCUS Fellows, Brit Fitzpatrick, founder of the SaaS mentorship platform MentorMe, the initiative itself was inspired by trailblazing women like Diane Nash, an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights era whose brilliant tactician mind led to several of the movement's major victories- including the march in Selma and Diahann Carroll, who redefined the image of black women to a global audience.
Ms. Nash's and Ms. Carroll's courageous fight for equality has inspired us to continue this to the present time, when women of color in the fields of STEM and tech entrepreneurship still grapple with "similar but not the same" treatment from the larger startup community.
Why #ProjectDiane Matters
#ProjectDiane is more than just about data- it is about changing a long-prevailing worldview and increasing the participation of diverse communities in the wealth generated from the tech startup world.
By design, tech is a schematic field. When dealing with the constant, lightning-paced influxes of information, patterns are crucial for high-stakes industry players to make quick decisions. In order to disrupt this pattern, we have to rewrite the industry's startup source code to recognize a new pattern.
From an economic development perspective, women are the key to refactoring the current code. Over 70% of black households are led by black women (US Census, 2014). While this statistic should not be construed to suggest that black men aren't involved in their families (they are), it does suggest that black women make the primary economic and lifestyle decisions for their families and for the community as a whole. Yet, little attention is paid to black women (and other brown women) as a group, (please read Nicole Sanchez's excellent essay for Medium on this topic, "Which Women in Tech") . While focus on the early end of the pipeline is important (ie. coding programs for kids), a number studies have found that this early work is for naught, especially for black children, unless you can change the economic status of their parents. ( See Washington Post Article on this subject)
So, if you want to get black children in the pipeline, you must get black women in the pipeline as well.
This is where #ProjectDiane comes in.
The main goals of #ProjectDiane is to:
- Creating a comprehensive, interactive visual map of the racial and gender composition of the global startup community.
- Developing infographics and data sets that can be used to develop programs that create successful diverse women founders.
- Disrupting the pattern in tech by raising awareness of successful diverse women founders in tech
How You Can Help #ProjectDiane
On June 1st, you have the chance to be a part of the movement.
You can help solve the diversity problem in tech through supporting digitalundivided's Kickstarter program.
Your contributions will help us create an interactive map of the racial and gender composition of the global startup community