Big tech has long been a man’s world, namely a white man’s. In 2019, BIPOC women only made up about 11% of the cloud computing labor force. Only 3% of Black women are a part of that group. Although things are starting to shift, there’s still a lot to be desired in pipelining substantive access opportunities for Black girls and women aiming to build careers in tech.
So how do we get more Black female representation in tech?
One of the ways Amazon Web Services, the leading cloud services provider, is addressing this challenge is through their $30 million Impact Accelerator for underrepresented founders. This program levels the playing field providing combined cash and credits, training, mentoring, and technical guidance, as well as introductions to Amazon leaders and teams, networking opportunities with investors, and the necessary advisory support to scale their business.
“I’ve gotten customers, partners, friends, and new family members from my experience in the Impact Accelerator,” Teasha Cable told ESSENCE. She is the co-founder and CEO of self-service decision intelligence company CModel, which helps leaders, assess, know, and grow their business. Cable participated in AWS’s Impact Accelerator for Black founders in 2022.
Last year, 25 founders arrived at the AWS headquarters in Seattle, WA, to participate in an intensive eight-week program and received up to $225,000 in cash and AWS Activate credits. The opportunity was a game-changer.
Cable, a former executive turned entrepreneur, shared that she has had the dual challenge of being Black and a woman in tech, often finding herself feeling like a lone wolf on her growth journey. But her experience with the AWS Black Founders Accelerator felt like a community.
“When I talk to white men about their founder journey, I say ‘if it’s hard for you, it’s ten times harder for me,” Cable told ESSENCE. “When I talk to white women, I say, it’s hard for you, that means it’s seven times more difficult for me—when I talk to Black men, I tell them that hard for you is at least five times harder for me. The other AWS accelerator cohort members all inherently understand that.”
Another AWS Impact Accelerator participant Belinda Batdorf agrees that cultural competency and communal connections are integral to Black founders’ growth journey. She started her career as a young entrepreneur with an import business in Lusaka, Zambia at the age of 20 and after moving to the United States, co-founded the digital experience management company HubbleIQ. Her company solves remote digital issues with intelligent, end-user empowered tech support.
Along the way, she has learned the importance of appreciating diversity and aligning with opportunities that make sense for her, and her company. Not only was community a key reason she decided to participate in the AWS Impact Accelerator, but the deep equity the program offered to founders as well.
“The AWS accelerator program is unlike any other program we’ve ever participated in,” said. “Along with the impactful educational resources, you add in equity-free money? It’s incredible. They didn’t take any piece of our business,” she explained, pointing out that unlike other accelerator programs who typically take a 5-10% ownership stake in participants’ businesses, AWS did not.
“That just goes to show how much they want to see us win,” Batdorf continued. “They are truly walking the walk.”
As for advice for Black women who want to start their own business, she said, “everyone is telling you what to do sometimes. You have to drown out the noise and stay focus. You know your vision the best and you have what it takes to make it happen.”
Click here to learn more about AWS’s Impact Accelerator for Black founders.