In 2006, Chuka Ikokwu secured his first job out of college at a small technology consulting firm in Dallas. The first thing he noticed was that he was the only person of color out of the 50 or so employees; all the others were white and most of them were male. Almost immediately Chuka began to go through extra scrutiny by randomly assigned supervisors, and one of them would regularly literally barge into his office and demand that he demonstrates his excel and pivot table analysis skills.
This went on for months until eventually I was laid off. It was odd because my clients were happy and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly I did wrong to warrant “extra attention” or my being laid off without cause. In hindsight, it would turn out that this experience was likely due to the unconscious bias in my co-workers that led them to believe that I was not capable of performing at their level because I was Black. Though this was my first experience with the diversity issue in tech, it would not be the last. I would go on to climb the corporate ladder in Silicon Valley for the next decade, but it was still impossible not to notice how relatively few women and people of color there were (I was one of 9 black employees at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale campus of 3000+ people back in 2010!). Interestingly, whenever I would go out with my professional friends, it was always a diverse group, but when I would go to work it was more of a homogeneous group. My conviction about doing something about this continued to grow.
Says Chuka Ikokwu.
In 2016, he decided to rather push a solution than just acknowledge the problem, so him and his co-founder put their savings together to start a company to help connect underrepresented people with forward-thinking tech companies.
Our savings ran out, but we were committed. We pitched to our uncles and aunties. They believed in us and helped us bootstrap our first MVP.
Sure enough, shortly after that McKinsey would publish a study on diversity in the workforce claiming, among other things, that “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above industry medians.” Sure enough, the report quickly garnered a great deal of attention. For the first time, a lot of companies began to take diversity more seriously and this opened the door for us to pursue our mission.
In 2017, they decided to open the platform to all folks that consider themselves marginalized as opposed to just people of color. This was a great decision because it opened their eyes to the depth and breadth of the diversity problem and introduced them to so many different perspectives.
Since the launch of the Divercity.io portal, which is a diversity and inclusion recruiting tool that helps forward-thinking recruiters connect with diverse talent and measure their company’s diversity metrics, they’ve seen over 7,000 users added to their network and over 3,000 jobs added to the platform by over 300 companies. they’re on track to becoming the go-to source for diversity measurement as well as access to diverse talent!