Diversity is one of the factors that makes Miami unique. More than half of its residents were born outside of the US – over four times the national average. It’s a multilingual city, acting as a cultural interlocutor between the US and Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond.
But how does South Florida’s innovation industry stack up when it comes to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion?
For Leigh-Ann Buchanan, President of aīre ventures, a Miami-based nonprofit venture studio, the question was pressing. Against the backdrop of last year’s nationwide racial reckoning, Buchanan brought together upwards of 80 local partners and 1,600 local innovators to tell the story of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) in South Florida’s tech scene.
“The tech and innovation community said that we’re committed to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion,” Buchanan told Refresh Miami. “But there was no way to measure and benchmark data on what could be our strategic approach.”
The qualitative and quantitative data Buchanan and team collected is on display in the REDI Scorecard. Buchanan calls this a “benchmark for action.”
“I don’t think that the findings are negative. They’re a great way to understand where we should focus our efforts,” she said.
According to the REDI Scorecard, Miami still has a ways to go to develop the inclusive ecosystem many startups and technologists are striving for. One of the most important findings for Buchanan is that women entrepreneurs and Black leaders lack the effective support needed to thrive. This leads to a more negative perception of our local tech scene.
“Women entrepreneurs rated the ecosystem on average 22% lower than their male counterparts, and Black leaders rated the ecosystem 40% lower than their white and Hispanic peers,” Buchanan explained. While that finding did not shock Buchanan, she said that it was helpful to attach some tangible figures to the anecdotal evidence she has been hearing for years.
The Scorecard notes the need to increase access to capital and funding as well. Underrepresented founders, which includes women, scored access to capital and funding the lowest of all the subcategories, just after access to metrics & learning.
Buchanan also underscored the disconnect between diverse innovators looking for employment in the tech industry, and tech firms looking for diverse talent: “There is a gap that is disproportionately affecting more diverse talent in accessing those tech jobs.”
The Scorecard notes that, despite Miami’s ethnically diverse tech talent pool, “diverse talent express difficulty accessing the connections and job placement opportunities.” At the same time, “companies express challenges in locating and recruiting diverse tech talent.” The report also acknowledges that there is a lack of low-cost programs to support entrepreneurs.
Another interesting insight from the Scorecard is that older individuals and those who have lived in South Florida for a longer period of time typically have less positive impressions of and experiences in the ecosystem.
In the next stage of the project, which has already been in the works for over a year, Buchanan hopes to provide actionable insights for concerned members of our community to improve our region’s REDI score. She also said that the website will highlight existing initiatives to combat the issues the scorecard points out.
Ultimately, Buchanan aspires for Miami to be a “blueprint for other ecosystems on how to be more equitable.” She noted that other cities and regions can use the REDI Scorecard as a framework for understanding racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in their communities.
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