Black Tech Fest reaffirms companies commitment to British Black community

 The largest global brands in the technology industry today announce their collective commitment to champion racial equity at Black Tech Fest '21, a live festival celebrating Black culture, showcasing innovation, and creating pathways for underrepresented talent. The three-day event will take place online and in person from 19th to 21st October during UK Black History Month. Last year, over 40,000 people streamed Black Tech Fest content across Black History Month and 3,500 attendees from over 20 countries attended the festival, the biggest celebration of its kind in Europe. See here to pre-register.

This commitment comes on the back of recent research from Black Tech Fest that found that one in three (30%) of the 55,000 tech workers surveyed believed ‘things have gotten worse’ in terms of race relations in the UK. A further 51% of respondents stated they had ‘observed no change’.This stands in contrast to just 4% that said things had gotten ‘significantly better.’

New corporations including Microsoft, Deloitte, Adyen, Capita and Experian join the founding partners from last year’s coalition including TikTok, Salesforce and Google in their commitment to advance racial equity in tech and in elevating the voices of the Black British community. This year, startups have also joined for the first time.This comes as Black Tech Fest’s research found that 69% of respondents said they’d ‘observed no change’ in the start-up ecosystem for Black people since May 2020.

Oz Alashe, MBE, founder and CEO of UK cyber security startup CybSafe, said: “Conversations about diversity, equality and inclusion in tech aren’t just about right and wrong. They go to the very essence of what it means to create a future that benefits all people. As tech startups building the future, we can’t be absent from this conversation. As leaders we must play our part and show that it matters to us too.”

Black Tech Fest will feature themed content with ‘Colorcode’ on day one (19th October), incorporating advice and information on learning new skills, acquiring digital training, tips on finding employment and key role models. At Black Tech Fest 2020, the UK Minister of State Caroline Dinenage opened the festival noting that the UK has “half the number of the Black tech workers that [Government] would expect to see.” In response, Accenture and Adobe ran skills enhancing sessions and TikTok fast tracked attendees through its graduate recruitment cycle at last year’s inaugural festival. Many companies see this as one way they are tackling the disparity of youth unemployment in the Black community.

Trevor Johnson, Head of Marketing, Global Business Solutions, Europe, at TikTok said “Whatever field you're in, starting your dream career can be a huge challenge. That's why we are unbelievably proud to continue our partnership with Black Tech Fest, supporting them in their mission to help Black professionals expand their network and improve opportunities for the next generation of innovators. Last year's festival was a huge success, and we look forward to teaching more young people new skills, sharing advice on job applications and fast-tracking eligible attendees through our graduate and internship roles.”

Days two and three (20th and 21st October) of the festival will contain thought provoking sessions on embracing inclusive thinking and its impact on the modern workplace. Last year Google ran a session on product inclusion following a spate of launches focused on making their tools more accessible, inclusive, and appealing to Black businesses.

Technology entrepreneur, Tom Adeyoola, speaker at last year’s festival and former CEO of UK startup Metail noted, “There has been a lot of talk and hand wringing from organisations over the last year, but still a frustrating lack of concrete action and money to follow.”

Wendy Mars, President EMEAR, Cisco added, “This unique forum, which brings together creators, innovators and present and future leaders, looks set to be a fantastic and productive experience for everyone involved. The event will contain thought-provoking sessions on inclusive thinking and its impact on the modern workplace. Under the theme of ‘belonging’, there’ll be deep dives on financial inclusion, algorithmic bias, racism, venture capital funding and inclusive leadership. I am delighted to be participating in Black Tech Fest this year and to take time to celebrate Black culture and all that it brings to the technology sector.”

Leading technologists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders speaking at Black Tech Fest, include:

  • Wendy Mars, President EMEAR, Cisco
  • Lord Simon Wooley, Baron Woolley of Woodford, Kt, political & equalities activist, founder & director of Operation Black Vote and trustee of the charity Police Now
  • Patricia Lamour, MBE, CEO Aspire Education Group and Co-Founder at GEEDA
  • Kehinde Andrews, the UK’s first Professor of Black Studies
  • Femi Nylander, BBC documentary marker and Rhodes Must Fall advocate
  • Dr. Frank Mugisha, Nobel Peace Prize nominee
  • Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, political activist and co-founder of UK Black Pride
  • Jade LB, part of Stormzy’s #Merky Books (Penguin Random House)
  • Dr Tolullah Oni and Dr Zubaida Haque, Independent Sage
  • Jaime Rogozinski, author of WallStreetBets
  • Black employee resource groups (ERGs) from Salesforce, TikTok, Deloitte and many more 

Discussions at the festival are set to cover a range of topics including:

  • Racist robots
  • Is woke wrong?
  • The role of social media in LGBTQ+ Activism for People of Colour
  • How to close Black educational attainment gaps?

The speakers will discuss their commitment to racial equity and stand as allies to the Black community,presenting a wide range of sessions, fireside chats and interactive workshops designed to enhance skills, raise awareness, and drive change in championing the progress of Black people working within the global tech industry.

Ashleigh Ainsley, Co-Founder of Black Tech Fest, said, “The past 12 months have been telling with businesses, organisations and educational institutions attempting to make authentic steps to address racial injustice. However, there is still a great deal of progress that needs to be made, and for every company that commits championing the Black community at Black Tech Fest there are dozens in the FTSE that don’t. It’s no surprise and (BTF research highlighted) 38% of Black Tech workers thought organisations responses in the last year were ‘tokenistic’.

On the event, Jose Luiz Rossi, Managing Director at Experian UK&I, said: “We are delighted to be sponsoring Black Tech Fest. The event creates a fantastic space to celebrate Black voices in technology, Black culture, and the importance of inclusive innovation. It’s important to us that we continue improving the diversity of our organisation, so we’re especially excited by the chance to meet and make connections with an array of talented professionals in the data and technology industry. We’re very much looking forward to being part of it.”