Report Shows Chicago Must Become More Inclusive to Grow Tech Talent & Economy

Black Tech Mecca’s New Framework Identifies Disparities & Recommends Solutions

In a report released at the organization’s annual summit at Google Chicago, Black Tech Mecca (BTM) found that, though the demand for tech workers is increasing, significant barriers are blocking people of color from seizing opportunity in Chicago.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it,” said BTM co-founder and CEO Fabian Elliott. “Black Tech Mecca’s new Smart Black Tech Ecosystem City Assessment Framework represents a critical step forward in identifying racial inequities so that community leaders can work together to address them.”

BTM’s new report found that Chicago was lacking across four key pillars that are essential to supporting a strong black tech ecosystem: K-12 and higher education, corporate support, and entrepreneurship.

Key findings show that:                                                            

  • Although there are 135 youth coding programs and camps available in Chicago, the majority are being offered downtown and in north side neighborhoods, and only 16 operate during the school year.
  • Only 12 percent of black undergraduates in Illinois graduate with a STEM or computer science degree; compared to 5 times as many white undergraduates who hold these degrees.
  • While women are underrepresented in tech corporations, black women are even more severely marginalized. In Illinois, there is only one black woman in senior leadership for every 151 tech workers. Among white women, it’s one for every ten.
  • Among the 32 incubators and accelerators identified in Chicago, only seven were physically located within five miles of a predominantly black neighborhood.

In addition to casting data-driven light on the city’s racial inequity issues, BTM identified steps leaders can take to strengthen Chicago’s status as a global city by growing our tech economy through a racial equity lens, including:

  • Passing legislation on employment discrimination and equal pay requirements backed by clear documentation.
  • Developing a citywide coalition to expand STEM programs inside and outside K-12 classrooms.
  • Providing city incentives and grants for incubators and accelerators to establish hubs in predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods.
  • Researching the effectiveness of Chicago coding bootcamps in their ability to place black students in tech companies across the city.

“Our report clearly demonstrates that Chicago must do significant work to become a world-class destination for tech talent,” said Elliott. “Black Tech Mecca is calling on all Chicago politicians, businesses, educators and citizens to join us in building a stronger, more equitable tech sector.”

The 2019 Chicago State of the Black Tech Ecosystem event was hosted by Google and sponsored by, Accenture, Google, Google for Startups, The Chicago Community Trust, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Relativity, Wintrust Community Bank, ShopRunner and YouTube.

Read the full report at


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