Report Spotlights Barriers Faced by Native Communities in the U.S. Tech Ecosystem, Urging Action

The Native Tech Ecosystem Report by the Kapor Foundation and AISES examines the current state of Native representation across K-12 computer science education, post-secondary pathways, the technology workforce, and entrepreneurship/VC funding.

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Today the Kapor Foundation, the nonprofit centered on expanding access and equity in the technology ecosystem, released a new report titled, The State of Tech Diversity: The Native Tech Ecosystem in partnership with AISES. The report calls upon the public to critically understand the systems that create and profit from the structural disparities across the tech ecosystem so that the conclusions drawn do not reinforce the damaging narratives about Native communities.

“We’re excited to partner with the Kapor Foundation to amplify our work to increase the representation of Indigenous communities in STEM fields and dismantle entry barriers that have historically left these populations out of the tech industry,” said Dr. Kathy DeerInWater, Vice President of Programs and Research at AISES. “The findings of this report underscore the pressing need to eliminate these disparities through continued awareness and advocacy, educational resources, and professional development tailored to our communities.”

The report findings underscore the crucial need to address foundational barriers that hinder Native communities’ access to CS education and entry into careers in technology. Merely 59% of Native students attend a school offering CS, and only 20% of high schools located on reservations offer CS

“We sought to privilege the many gifts Indigenous peoples bring to STEM fields and careers and highlight the phenomenal work happening at our TCUs. Through this report, we have an opportunity to visibilize our people’s contributions to tech careers and ways we bring our own Indigenous knowledge systems to this work,” said Tiffany Smith, Director of Research and Career Support at AISES. “We are still here despite so many efforts to destroy us and our systems of higher education and workplaces must do better in supporting the gifts we bring. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams!”

The tech ecosystem has done very little to make progress on Native representation. Despite a rise in the conferment of CS degrees in higher education since 2020, Native student enrollment at both two and four-year institutions has shown little to no growth. The percentage of associate’s degrees in CS awarded has remained stagnant at 1% for American Indian/Alaskan Native students and 0.4% for Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students. Similarly, representation among these communities at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, shows marginal shifts between 2019 and 2021.

“The data underscores what Native people have been saying for generations,” said Frieda McAlear, Director of Seeding Innovation at the Kapor Foundation. “Not only are Native and Indigenous communities excluded from working in tech – they’re not even given the chance to learn about computing and the possibilities of working in computing fields as a way to support their families and people. The first step into the tech industry is education, and it’s clear there are still huge inequities in that step alone.”

Over the last six years, the number of registered apprenticeships across the U.S. has grown by 25%, with a 216% surge in the number of registered technical apprenticeships. However, only 1.1% of American Indian/Alaskan Native and 0.6% of Native Hawaiian/Native Pacific Islanders hold these positions, underscoring the urgent need to build more alternative pathways for Natives within the tech workforce. Even more concerning is the stagnation within tech leadership roles. Between 2021 and 2022 there was an increase in board members from historically excluded communities (from 6.2% to 10%), yet the top 200 tech companies lacked any board members of American Indian/Native Alaskan descent and had only one board member of Native Hawaiian/Native Pacific Islander descent. 

The ecosystem inequities extend to Venture Capital, where $156B was invested into U.S.-based entrepreneurship in 2022, yet American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander founders secured only $23M in funding.

“It’s crucial we recognize the history of exclusionary policies Indigenous communities have faced and the ways this history lives on through today’s inequities in education and the workforce,” said Dr. Allison Scott, CEO of the Kapor Foundation. “The technology sector excludes Indigenous communities from opportunities to create wealth, to design and deploy innovative tech, and to receive funding for products and companies tailored to the needs of their community. To create genuine change, we need long-term interventions.”

Based upon the inequities documented, from disparities in CS education to the workforce, the report authors are calling for significant reforms and investments to the inclusion of Native cultures, communities, and perspectives in efforts to build a more sustainable and equitable future. This includes: increasing access to CS K-12 courses and providing culturally revitalizing pedagogy and curriculum; recruiting and retaining Native students on postsecondary computing pathways; diversified recruitment strategies and partnerships with tribes; investments in developing early-stage entrepreneurs, supporting growth capital, and expanding the pool of Native investors deploying capital.

The full report is available here.

About the Kapor Foundation
The Kapor Foundation works at the intersection of racial justice and technology by removing barriers in order to make the technology ecosystem more diverse, inclusive, and impactful for communities of color. The Kapor Foundation is a recognized leader in the movement to transform the technology ecosystem by expanding access to computer science education, conducting research on disparities in the technology pipeline, supporting nonprofit organizations and initiatives, and investing in gap-closing startups and entrepreneurs. For more information on the Kapor Foundation and the Kapor family of organizations, SMASH and Kapor Capital, visit

AISES is a 501(c)(3) non-profit professional association with the goal of substantially increasing American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, First Nation and other indigenous peoples of North America representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and other related disciplines. For more information on AISES, visit

Contact: [email protected]

SOURCE Kapor Foundation

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