Representation will change the face of the tech industry. Many women of color find themselves as the “only” in many rooms in tech spaces. It’s essential that women of color in tech are represented and able to share their stories. By empowering Black women in these spaces, they will know they’re not alone. It will also encourage young women interested in the field to get involved, knowing that they belong. 

As the founder of Baddies in Tech, Allie Joy Tsahey is passionate about diversity in tech. Tsahey spoke with 21Ninety about the value of more Black and brown women in tech and how to get there.

Five Black women on a stage speaking on a panel
Photo Credit: Baddies in Tech

21NINETY: What obstacles historically have hindered women of color from pursuing careers in tech? 

ALLIE TSAHEY: The issue is a “leaky pipeline” that starts in K-12 and persists through higher education and in the workplace. Due to systemic inequalities, young Black and brown people often attend schools that are not equipped with technology education. Against all odds, when they do make it to technology majors in higher education, they are often the “only” in their classes. With scholarships and affirmative action programs being cut, the barriers continue to pile on.

21N: What is the pathway for amplifying different opportunities in tech for young women interested in STEM?

AT: Visibility and representation is key. It is important that young women interested in careers in STEM see themselves in different roles and at different levels. They need to be able to look around and see a girlie girl leading in tech. They need to know that they don’t have to put on a “tech bro suit” to be successful in the industry. With representation comes mentorship [and] with mentorship comes opportunities. 

21N: Once a woman of color gets her foot in the door, how should she find a sense of belonging?

AT: Five years ago, there weren’t nearly as many communities and support groups as there are now for minorities and women in tech. Baddies in Tech exists as an external ERG (employee resource group) that provides a safe space for women of color to build successful tech careers. The word “baddies” in our name is intentional. It invites the woman of color who is the “only” to bring her full self to the tech industry. It tells her that she belongs.

Two Black women laughing and talking at a tech conference
Photo Credit: Baddies in Tech

21N: How did Baddies in Tech get its start and how has it grown since?

AT: I founded Baddies in Tech for myself. In 2018, when I started my first tech job, I found myself as an “only” in the workplace. I needed a network and support system. It started with posting #baddiesintech on a selfie I took while on the job. It perfectly blended my identity as a Black woman and as a tech professional. Since then, Baddies in Tech has evolved from an Instagram page to a non-profit that helps more than 130,000 women of color advance in the tech industry sustainably.

21N: What resources do Baddies in Tech provide to Black women and women of color in tech?

AT: As an “external ERG,” we provide support to women of color through three verticals: education, networking and career opportunities. We partner with tech bootcamps and workforce development programs to provide free or discounted tech education and upskilling opportunities. Our Discord community is a safe, on-demand networking space for our more than 5,000 members to connect, find answers to career questions, or simply vent about corporate woes. We also host community events in NYC, D.C., and Atlanta. Our annual conference, BaddieCon, is the ultimate networking experience for women of color in tech. We partner with tech companies and allies to funnel job and career development opportunities to our members through our job board and career events.

21N: What role do allies play in creating safe spaces for women of color in tech?

AT: Allies play a crucial role in amplifying the voices of women of color in tech. By actively challenging biases and microaggressions, they can foster environments that promote diversity of background, experiences and thought. They can also act as mentors who share valuable career experience, and as career sponsors who amplify the work of women of color in rooms they may not otherwise be in.

Four Black women wearing pink businesswear at a conference
Photo Credit: Baddies in Tech

21N: How can a woman who is in senior leadership in tech hold the door open for young women coming behind them?

AT: As women in tech, we have to dismantle the idea of tokenism in the workplace. There can absolutely be more than one of us succeeding in the same space. It’s important that leaders create opportunities for visibility and provide guidance on navigating career challenges.

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.