The Network Journal’s celebration of its 17th class of 40 Under Forty Achievers Award recipients coincides with new data on young Black professionals, a welcome departure from the pervasive gloom, doom and blood-boiling data on young Blacks.
According to a 2014 Fact Sheet from the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees, the young professional workforce is more diverse than the overall professional workforce, with ethnic minorities making up 31.5 percent of the young professional workforce in 2013. In 2013, when Blacks accounted for 12.9 percent of the U.S. population, Blacks made up 9.3 percent of the country’s young professional workforce. At the same time, 8.6 percent of all workers in management, professional and related occupations were Black. Among young professionals, Blacks had the highest concentration in community and social service occupations with nearly 120,000 workers, or 16.4 percent of young workers in those occupations. Young Black professionals had above average concentration among 20- to 34-year-olds in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media occupations, as well as health care practitioner and technical occupations. Young Black professionals made up 10.9 percent of the young arts and media workforce, against 8.2 percent for all Blacks, irrespective of age, in arts and media occupations. In health care practitioner and technical occupations, young Black professionals were 10.4 percent of the young professional workforce with more than 250,000 employed in 2013.
Other data from the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank focused on promoting American innovation, economic growth and wider opportunity, show young Blacks making serious headway in today’s tech/information boom. Since 2009, says Michael Mandel, the institute’s chief economic strategist, the number of Blacks working in computer and mathematical occupations has risen by 37 percent. By comparison, the total number of workers in computer and mathematical occupations, irrespective of race, rose by just 14 percent over the same period.
Why are Blacks seeing such gains in these fields? The Conference Board offers two reasons: Tech and information firms are unable to “get the people that they need” — the number of want ads for computer and mathematical occupations are up 60 percent to 70 percent since 2009 — and increasingly are looking to minority communities to fill the gap. Then there’s education. More Blacks are qualified for these new-economy jobs. Computer and information sciences degrees granted to Black students rose by 25 percent (bachelor’s) and 34 percent (associate) over the past three years, according to the Conference Board. However, those figures likely are somewhat understated because the 2011–2012 data include a category for two or more races that the 2008–2009 data do not have.
The young men and women that The Network Journal recognizes each year are outstanding performers in all of the above-mentioned fields and more, including entrepreneurship. These performers are a very real part of our story. For 17 consecutive years we have found them, told their stories and honored them, and we will continue to do so in the years ahead.
Profiles by Ayanna Barton, Ines Bebea, Chantell O. Black, Lourdes Branch, Janelle Gordon, Paulana Lamonier, Angela Johnson Meadows, Deandra Mouzon Nene Sangare, Bevolyn Williams-Harold