Episode 14: How LGBTQ and Black Women in Tech Can Be Their Best Advocate

Welcome back to Tech Forward, listeners! This week, I spoke with Angelica Coleman, tech aficionado and Director of Community at Lesbians Who Tech. A global community of over 35,000 queer technologists, Lesbians Who Tech connects talent with existing companies by hosting summits nationally as well as globally. They partner with hundreds of companies every year, and offer coding scholarships to queer and gender nonconforming women. As an advocate for diversity and inclusion, Angie is always finding new ways to use tech to build communities and bring people together.

Black women face abundant challenges in their professional lives. Not only are they frequently offered lower wages, they’re often steered away from the positions they apply for, and towards administrative or other non-technical roles. As a result, black women in the tech sector regularly end up underpaid, overworked, and pigeonholed into low wage, low status career paths regardless of their experience. Here are two tips from Angie on avoiding that fate:

  • Don’t market skills you don’t intend to use. A self-described generalist, Angie has worked at myriad companies and worn many hats during her tenure at each one. “There are skills [from previous jobs] that I never want to touch again. Don’t put it on your resume if you don’t want to do it! Remember you can tailor your resume for different roles.”
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to companies. Turning down an offer can feel risky, especially if you have financial concerns. Staying in a role that doesn’t fit you, however, can negatively affect your career trajectory down the line: either you end up changing jobs too often, or your performance could suffer.

Black, queer, and gender nonconforming professionals each face their own set of hurdles when advancing in companies, though there is plenty of overlap. So how can these underrepresented groups advocate for change without being labeled as someone who doesn’t fit in? Angie’s advice: play the game. “I’m always going to be myself, in a way that still complies with the job culture, until I can start changing that culture. If you show up as your best self, being all in and being a team player, you gain trust and responsibility. Then you can assert more of your views.”

To companies who want to increase diversity of their staff, Angie offers this advice: “Think about where you’re looking. When you make ‘top 10 schools’ a qualification, you’re cutting out entire populations who might be just as qualified, if not more. Expand your search. You can keep the same criteria. You don’t have to lower the bar, you just have to look somewhere else.”

Angie, thank you so much for coming onto the show to share your insights and advice. I want my listeners to know that the next Lesbians Who Tech summit will be held in New York, September 12-14th, and is open to non-binary and LGBTQ women, as well as allies. As always, thank you for listening, and see you next week!