Throughout my 25-year career in Information Technology (IT), I have worked for Fortune 500 companies, mid-sized firms, and small consulting firms in 8 industries. Although the settings were different, the outcomes were the same. It was the norm that I was just one of a few black people in IT, usually the only. I was often referred to as a hard worker, a team player, and the go-to person but those sentiments never translated into action when I spoke of higher career goals and aspirations. BCforward is the exception.
I have had the rare privilege of seeing BCforward through the lens of it being a start-up company to now being one of the largest black owned businesses in America. I originally joined the company in 1998 as one of its first employees. I worked as a consultant for 2 years until my contract ended and I took a non-consulting role at a different company.
Considering what I lost in culture, diversity, and camaraderie at BCforward, I hoped I would gain in stability, security, and growth at the new company. Instead I experienced 15 years of career stagnation. Despite having built the system, having developed a relationship with the user community, having completed multiple training and certification programs, and having earned an MBA, all under the same employer, opportunities for growth came and went but I was not viewed as the right person for those positions.
In less than 3 years back at BCforward, I have achieved more career growth than during the entire 22 years prior. Justin Christian, BCforward’s Founder and CEO, hired me as IT Business Relationship Manager and gave me the opportunity that had alluded me for so many years. 7 months later, he promoted me to IT Director – Application Services. Today, I am in company leadership as Sr. Director of Information Technology with full responsibility of the IT department.
In addition to experiencing exponential career growth, I am proud to say that the BCforward IT Department is highly diverse. My team is made up of 33% White, 33% Asian, 25% Black and 8% Latinx. The same is true for all BCforward departments. Unfortunately, specifically for IT, our level of diversity is an outlier in comparison to IT in corporate America.
According to a 5-year study by Wired Magazine, Blacks and Latinx make up only 2 – 6% and 3 – 8%, respectively, of IT at the largest tech companies. Whites and Asians make up 40 – 51% and 35 – 52%, respectively. Furthermore, like myself, many Blacks and Latinx feel as though they have “unfairly been passed over for promotion” and opt for employment elsewhere, resulting in low minority retention rates.
Stemming the tide of systemic racism begins with identifying and acknowledging disparities and taking steps to remedy them. BCforward has surpassed that challenge and has taken it a step further by not only growing a diverse workforce but also building a diverse leadership team that models who we are and who we strive to be. Being a black owned business is not the reason BCforward is successful at achieving diversity and equality in the workplace. We are successful because our entire leadership owns the responsibility of doing the right thing. Our CEO embraces and encourages this tenant. It is the embodiment of who he is and what he believes in. It is time for America to follow suit and do better.
Angela D. Henderson
Sr. Director of Information Technology