Advancing women of color in the tech industry: Interview with Dr. Chandra Erdman

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Advancing women of color in the tech industry: Interview with Dr. Chandra Erdman

Categories: Blog, News

Photo of Dr. Chandra Erdman
Dr. Chandra Erdman

The tech industry is known for its high-paying jobs, exciting innovations, and an extreme lack of diversity. Among all women employed in computer science occupations, only 12% are Black or Latinx women. The median salaries in the tech industry are more than double the median salaries in other industries. The intense competition for tech industry jobs coupled with implicit bias and racism create compounding barriers for entry for women of color.   

Our YW Tech Lab program and Women in Tech Council give women of color the skills and mentorship they need to enter the tech industry as web developers. We talked with Dr. Chandra Erdman, Technical Program Manager at Google and Women in Tech Council member, on her experience in the tech industry and her advocacy that helped a recent YW Tech Lab graduate land a position in a training program at Google.

On what drew her to work in tech 

Erdman developed an interest in using technology while working on her PhD in Statistics. In her studies, she developed an open-source software package to “put the math out there in a way that people could actually apply it to solve real world problems”. Since developing the software, it has been used by hundreds of researchers around the world to make scientific discoveries. “Having software out there that people can use to learn and improve the world is super exciting and rewarding”.  

On how she connected a YW Tech Lab graduate with Google 

Erdman joined the Women in Tech Council after she was introduced to the YWCA by a family friend. After learning about YW Tech Lab, Erdman searched through Google opportunities to see if there could be a match for the experience level of YW Tech Lab graduates. She found a new program that provides Black participants with a paid, yearlong class in coding. “This opportunity is incredible because it is a year of training in coding and a connection to a bunch of opportunities that you could do in tech with that training”. With Erdman’s referral, one of our recent YW Tech Lab graduates was accepted into the program. 

On the need for diversity in the tech industry 

“If you have a very homogeneous group of people thinking about creating something, they are going to miss things. There are horrible examples of technology not working for people who are extremely underrepresented”. Erdman uses the example of sensors that don’t work as well on darker skin that could contribute to negative health outcomes. “When I think about where we are in terms of diversity, there’s such a long way to go”.