Study explains IT racial gap


Carson College of Business current IT team

Professor K.D. Joshi conducted a research study to determine why there is a lack of black men pursuing information technology (IT) careers.

While black males account for 9 percent of the total workforce, only 2.2 percent of IT occupations are held by black males, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Joshi focused on 25 black men who were successful in IT careers, and conducted interviews of these men to understand why they chose to pursue IT careers.

“These success stories of ordinary young black men can inspire and motivate other black men who wish to pursue IT degrees. Black men in our study accumulated different kinds of capital such as social connections, internships by working hard and entering a career that society doesn’t expect them to,” Joshi said.

Joshi said the successful black men in IT careers gain motivation from other black men who have the same jobs.

“One effective practice common among these black men was their ability to build social connections that helped them in entering and pursuing IT degrees,” Joshi said.

The research questions revealed that there are a variety of reasons for the difficulty for success by black men in IT occupation, which include a lack of education in childhood schools, economic pressure to find a “realistic job,” and social pressure by peers who negatively perceive IT careers.

One research participant explained that his hesitance for pursing an IT degree stemmed from social pressure to conform to his urban environment.

“It’s like people where I come from get a job, get a house, get a family … Get something realistic … and in our environment, IT seems unrealistic,” the participant said.

Most participants held the notion that they needed to be better than their coworkers at the same job in order to prove that they didn’t get hired simply because of race or disability.

“I will have to show them differently that I’m better than you all, even though I am disabled and African-American,” the participant said.

Joshi said she hopes the research is motivating to black men who wish to pursue IT degrees.

Ken Butterfield, department chair for the Department of Management, Information Systems and Entrepreneurship, said the research is in line with the university’s current commitment to equal opportunity.

“It would be great to encourage and inspire any underrepresented group to open the door to an area they never considered,” Butterfield said.

The Carson College of Business Dean Chip Hunter also supports the research and its effect on the WSU culture.

“The study’s unique collaboration … will strengthen the Carson College of Business’ and WSU’s commitment to understanding of diversity and cultural differences,” Hunter said.