Black Tech Founders Close the Health Care Race Gap in Innovative Fashion

Black Founders

Many of us have heard the stories and statistics — in every category from childbirth to cancer, Black communities across America are significantly underserved when undergoing major medical treatments or even standard services. Still, while so many of us are aware of the problem there hasn’t been substantial dialogue regarding solutions to said problem, until now.

When Ashlee Wisdom first launched her health and wellness website, over 34,000 users — most of them Black — visited the site in the first two weeks. According to Wisdom herself, this early version of the platform wasn’t the most functional. Still, the launch was successful nonetheless with Wisdom’s company, Health In Her Hue, connecting Black women to culturally sensitive doctors, therapists, doulas, and nurses across the country.

Health in Her Hue launched in 2018 with only six doctors on their roster. Two years later, users can download the app at no cost and scroll through roughly 1,000 providers.

“People are constantly talking about Black women’s poor health outcomes, and that’s where the conversation stops,” says Wisdom.“I didn’t see anyone building anything to empower us.”

As more patients begin to seek out healthcare that acknowledges their cultural values, beliefs, and traditions during treatment, Black founders like Wisdom are here to help. Motivated by their own experiences and those of their loved ones, Black entrepreneurs want to revolutionize the way people eat, exercise, and communicate with doctors. This has led to the launching of health startups that aim to close the cultural gap in healthcare using technology while also creating profitable businesses.

Startup Health, a company headquartered in San Francisco, has invested in a number of health companies led by people of color with its president and co-founder, Unity Stoakes stating,

“One of the most exciting growth opportunities across health innovation is to back underrepresented founders building health companies focusing on underserved markets,”

He further stated that the leaders of these startups have “an essential and powerful understanding of how to solve some of the biggest challenges in health care.”

Kevin Dedner, founder of D.C headquartered startup Hurdle, started his company three years ago, but saw significant growth after the killing of George Floyd. In his own words, Dedner’s company connects patients with therapists who “honor culture instead of ignoring it”. Dedner also says, “We’re really speaking to a need… Mission alone is not enough. You have to solve a problem.”

Memphis, Tennessee founder, Erica Plybeah, focused her attention on providing transportation through her company, Medhaul. Medhaul works with providers and patients to secure low-cost rides to get people to and from their medical appointments. Plybeah’s team helps schedule rides after caregivers, patients, or providers fill out a form on MedHaul’s website.

Although Medhaul is for everyone, Plybeah understands that people of color, as well as low income residents and people living in rural areas, are more likely to face transportation difficulties. She founded the company in 2017 after years of watching her mother care for her grandmother who had lost both legs to Type 2 Diabetes. They lived in the Mississippi Delta where transportation options were scarce.

Plybeah recently received funding from New York-based banking giant, Citi.

Clinify Health is a startup founded by Nathan Pelzer — yet another Black founder. His company works with community health centers and independent clinics in underserved communities and analyzes medical and social data to help doctors identify their most at-risk patients and those they haven’t seen in awhile. By focusing on preventive care, the medical providers can help patients improve their health and avoid trips to the emergency room. 

Pelzer has described it as a company that supports triage outside of the emergency room.

As Black tech founders, Wisdom, Dedner, Plybeah, and Pelzer find ways to support one another by trading advice, chatting about funding, and looking for ways to collaborate. Pelzer and Wisdom met a few years ago as participants in a competition sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. They reconnected at a different event for Black founders of technology companies and decided to help each other.

“We’re each other’s therapists,” Pelzer says. “It can get lonely out here as a Black founder.”

As the community of Black Healthcare Founders continues to grow and Black patients continue to seek out culturally competent healthcare, the Black community as a whole is bound to see unprecedented benefits. With that being said, we are only in the beginning stages of what appears to be an economic revolution.

Source: https://khn.org/news/article/black-tech-startups-health-care-apps/

Tech Industry’s Diversity Discussions Rife with Contradictions, New Research Report from CompTIA Reveals

 

As America’s technology industry strives to build a more gender and racially diverse workforce, a new report released today by leading tech industry association CompTIA reveals a series of contradictory viewpoints on the current state and future goals for workplace diversity.

Nearly eight in ten high-tech industry workers surveyed by CompTIA say they are satisfied with their organization’s diversity efforts; and 87 percent say they’ve worked in a department comprised of a diverse group of employees in the last year.

At the same time, 45 percent of workers say the industry has lagged in promoting diversity, while another third at least partially agree. This position is backed by statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Commission and other sources, which find a tech industry workforce that’s overwhelmingly white and male, with fewer African Americans, Hispanics or women than other industries.

“The human element may be at play here,” said Carolyn April, senior director for industry analysis at CompTIA. “People want to be aspirational; they want to believe that their company is very progressive and encouraging, offering job opportunities to any qualified candidate, regardless of demographics.”

One area of general consensus is on diversity’s impact on innovation. Nearly two-thirds of respondents agree that an organization with a heterogeneous employee base is more likely to produce world-class innovation than one that is largely homogeneous in makeup. Another 28 percent at least partially agree with that premise.

One of the more curious findings of the survey relates to gender. Asked if women and men are naturally inclined to succeed in roles that amplify their gender traits, nearly half of respondents agreed. But among executives and senior managers, 61 percent agreed with the statement, compared with 46 percent of middle managers and 22 percent of staff-level workers.

“One possible reason so many executive-level respondents believe women and men succeed more in roles that play to gender traits is that the vast majority of senior managers in the high-tech industry are men,” said Yvette Steele, who manages CompTIA’s Advancing Diversity in Technology community.

“Women are more likely to be working in middle management or at the staff level, which could explain the disparity of the responses,” Steele continued. “When it comes to moving up the ladder gender stereotypes, unconscious bias as well as prejudice affect progress toward greater equity.”

The industry’s gender gap is widest when it comes to pay equity. Two-thirds of women in high tech say they would leave their job if the discovered pay imbalances among employees doing equal work, compared to 44 percent of men who said the same.

On an optimistic note, a majority of workers feel things are changing, with 59 percent of all respondents saying the industry has made strides toward a more diverse workforce.

“The industry is having a reckoning moment,” April concluded. “Maybe companies and executives didn’t realize that diversity has been a problem, but the majority now do, and more resources are being allocated toward diversity. We’re still in a learning curve, but we’re on a positive trajectory.”

To promote greater diversity with the technology industry, CompTIA has established two communities, on Advancing Diversity in Technology and Advancing Women in Technology. More than 2,800 individuals are active in the two communities.

CompTIA’s “Diversity in the High-Tech Industry” report is based on two online surveys conducted in December 2017; one to 400 U.S. IT professionals, and the other to 200 workers outside the high-tech industry. The complete report is available free of charge at https://www.comptia.org/resources/technology-diversity-research.