Despite a U.S. tech workforce that’s grown more than 80 percent in the last 20 years, less than one percent of black women are employed in STEM careers.
As a black women in technology herself, Ina Montgomery took this statistic as a call to action to empower black women.
“You’re going to need have a strong sense of self if you’re (a minority) going to work in a career that’s predominately white men,” Montgomery said. “You have to be able to be confident in your opinion, voice your input and make sure that your contributions are being acknowledged.”
Wanting to combine her skills as an educator and tech professional, Montgomery founded Urban TEC in 2013 to help teach people in Kansas City’s urban core vital tech skills. Delivering tech training and technical certification to help Kansas Citians, Montgomery hopes that Urban TEC will bridge a racial divide in Kansas City.
“Although Kansas City touts itself as a city for technology and entrepreneurship, there is a lack of inclusion of the community east of Troost,” Montgomery said. “This a gap that I can definitely stand in to help fill.”
Urban TEC works with a variety of organizations in Kansas City to increase its impact in the community, including LRNG KC and Connecting for Good. And as the organization continues to grow, Urban TEC has launched an effort that’s focusing on a younger demographic.
Montgomery launched Sisters in STEM in 2016, which is dedicated to helping black middle- and high school girls explore science, technology, engineering and math careers. The nine-month program acquaints young black women with STEM resources, learning opportunities as well as job shadowing opportunities to help participants explore possible careers. The second cohort — which can accommodate 15 participants — is still accepting new members.
But most importantly, Montgomery said that the program will help develop leadership skills and personal character.
“I refer to myself as the technology Harriet Tubman,” Montgomery said. “I help the girls navigate that space.”
Montgomery said that strong mentorship is imperative if the country wants to have a more diverse STEM workforce. She added that strong role models while growing up are what helped push her into studying technology.
“Without an advocate or champion in their life, some may not ever get to the level of success that’s possible,” Montgomery said. “I want to celebrate and appreciate young black girls. Because they just don’t get that. I want them to have a space that they know is theirs.”
For more information about programs that Urban TEC offers, click here.