Two Young, Black Entrepreneurs In Tech Open Up About STEM Diversity — And Why It Matters

The industry of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is no more diverse today than it was more than a decade ago.

President Barack Obama announced on Monday that more than $240 million in new private-sector commitments are going toward inspiring and preparing more girls and boys to pursue STEM careers.

But despite efforts to get young people interested in STEM, ethnic minorities appear to still be missing from the equation. While the number of African-Americans and Latinos in the U.S. has increased, their presence in STEM careers has remained stagnant since 2001, according to a February 2015 report from Change the Equation, a group of Fortune 500 companies focused on increasing STEM education.

So, what do young minorities working in STEM — especially those few minorities who hold leadership positions in the industry — think of this diversity disconnect?

Meet Rodney Williams, 31, founder of the Cincinnati-based mobile tech company Lisnr — which has developed a communication protocol called inaudible smart tone technology that sends data over audio — and André Walters, 35, founder of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based social commerce company Yuno — a shopping Web app that rewards users for sharing information about their everyday purchases with others.

The two men recently sat down with The Huffington Post for an interview that touched on everything from why diversity in technology is important to lessons they’ve learned along their entrepreneurial journeys.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You two seem to have bonded over facing similar challenges along each of your respective entrepreneurial journeys — and one of those shared experiences is being a minority in the tech industry. Have you both noticed a lack of diversity in the technology arena and how has it affected your experiences?

Rodney Williams: There’s absolutely no diversity in technology — there just isn’t — in the technology that we’re doing. We’re creating a technology startup, which we hope to be a technology company that will create high value and high growth. That’s a very different aspect. I think diversity hasn’t touched that market.

There are groups like “Blacks In Tech” and black professionals at technology companies — but there is a complete lack of diverse tech founders. Technology leaders that are taking on an industry, taking on a vertical, building a product, launching it, gaining interest from investors and being on the forefront of technology. That’s where the current lack of diversity is.

To read the rest of this interview, published in the Huffington Post, please click here.