Business management

Proud to Be: Ashleigh Ainsley, co-founder of Colorintech

Ashleigh Ainsley, co-founder of Colorintech, explains how this non-profit helps to increase diversity in the UK and Europe’s tech economy, and why he’s proud to connect under-represented talent.

“We established Colorintech as a non-profit five years ago to improve diversity and get more people from under-represented communities into the tech industry. Working with several big companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook, we run programmes, initiatives and events to help students, entrepreneurs and professionals build successful pathways into tech. 

“On 19–21 October we co-host Black Tech Fest, a virtual three-day festival to celebrate Black culture. Our Colorintech community now spans over 25,000 people in the UK and Europe.”

What motivated you to start?

“I grew up in south-east London – I thought everywhere was as diverse as Lewisham and the school I went to. I realised it can be very different.

“I went to Oxford from one of the most diverse places in the country to probably one of the least. I wasn’t necessarily the smartest or the quickest, but people better than me didn’t get the same opportunity I did. I worked for Google and it was international but not as diverse as they would have liked it. I went to work for a start-up and that was worse.

“So, I decided to do something about it, thinking there must be a better way to bring companies and people from under-represented communities together.”

What have been the key opportunities and challenges so far?

“The pandemic has encouraged organisations to adopt more friendly ways of working. It means we’ve reached more people at scale more quickly. Now, the challenge for the world is to find the balance between offering ‘digital first’ with opportunities for people to connect in meaningful ways. And how do organisations challenge themselves to be more inclusive and more equitable; after Black Lives Matter, to not take their foot off the pedal?

  • Watch Ashleigh’s business story on Instagram

“Organisations care about diversity and inclusion. We know there’s still a lot of work to do but there’s been a reflection point where organisations are putting budget behind this in a serious way.

“And not just the pioneering leaders like the Googles and the Facebooks. We’re seeing some of the legacy and laggard businesses do this as well, because they recognise it’s important for retention and attraction. That gives us a massive opportunity because we can now work with 10 times the number of organisations.”

Finally, the theme for this year’s Black History Month is Proud to Be. Why are you proud to be a Black business owner?

“I’m proud to be a Black person working in tech. I’m incredibly proud because I can see the impact we have. When we host community events, I hear people say, ‘I would never have got a job at Google, or eBay, or Samsung…’ We are fundamentally changing people’s lives and making a meaningful difference. 

“I’m proud of my team. And we’re pioneering in the tech industry. People weren’t really doing this before. I’m proud that we are innovating with some exciting organisations to create a more inclusive industry.”

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