The notion that Black people in America need to work twice as hard as others to succeed may be a depressing sentiment, but it has been deeply ingrained into the psyches of many African-Americans.
At TechCrunch Disrupt, several Black founders spoke about some of the burdens that come along with being a Black person in tech. Many of us are familiar with imposter syndrome, where one feels like they’re a fraud and fear being “found out.” But another idea that came up was representation syndrome.
Representation syndrome centers around this idea that because there are so few Black people in tech, being one of the only ones comes with this added pressure to be successful. Otherwise, one may feel that if they fail as one of the only Black people in tech, they will inadvertently make it harder for other Black people to be embraced by this homogeneous industry. That’s a heavy load to carry.
As Jessica Matthews, founder and CEO at Uncharted Power said:
When we raised our Series A, the immediate thing I thought was, ‘Oh, man. I can not lose these people’s money.’ This is huge and if we don’t work, it’s not even about us, it’s about every other person who looks like me.
Matthews said she hopes for a world where her daughter “can be mediocre as hell and still raise funding.” In 2016, she launched the Harlem Tech Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on STEM.
“You know, we would tell people we’re going to be the first billion-dollar tech company in Harlem, but we do not want to be the last,” she said.