A world where Black and Brown men empower each other to become leaders in the tech industry.
The Icon Project is created by of Wayne Sutton, serial entrepreneur, co-founder and CTO at Change Catalyst. As a black man in tech, he has founded several programs to assist in the success of underrepresented founders including accelerators, hackathons, conferences, and pitch events.
In 2015, after attending a couple of Black Men in Tech brunches hosted by Brian Martinez in San Francisco, Wayne saw the need to reach more Black and Brown men. So he created an invite-only Slack group called Black Men In Tech. The Slack group lead to hosting an Ask Me Anything (AMA), covering topics from the success of Black men in tech, pitch deck feedback, and mentor opportunities for Black men in tech around the world. The group has since grown to over 850 members.
The Slack group was a huge success but, while co-organizing and hosting international Tech Inclusion conferences with Change Catalyst and simultaneously sharing his years of experience through a variety of mentorship programs, Wayne continued to see ample opportunities to support the growth of Black and Brown men in tech.
In 2017, Wayne wrote a transparent Medium article sharing his struggle with depression and imposter syndrome in Silicon Valley as a Black man in tech. The article went viral and was one of the Medium’s top posts of 2017, after being read over 42,000 times. The feedback from the article showed the need to have more conversions around mental health in tech and especially for Black and Brown men.
Looking at data, research shows three key areas of impact that directly affect the mental health of Black and Brown men:
- Only 6.6 % of Black Men receive mental health services which are the lowest compared to women and other ethnic groups.
- Black Men have the lowest life expectancy of any other group
- African American adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population.
- Only 3.7% of members in the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of members in the American Psychological Association are Black.
The data clearly shows that Black and Brown men are at high risk of mental health and are the lowest to receive mental health services.
As Wayne continues to mentor up-and-coming Black and Brown men early in their tech careers and their founder journeys, he has identified two key areas that must be improved upon in order to fast track their success: mentorship and emotional intelligence. Mentorship is key to guiding Black and Brown men in their careers to support their professional development. Emotional intelligence is the foundation to become self-aware of the cognitive needs connected to the outcomes of success. In short, Black and Brown men in tech need more mentors and to become aware of what they don’t know, in order to succeed.
After numerous conversations with mentors and successful Black and Brown entrepreneurs, as well as hosting several Black Men In Tech panels at Tech Inclusion conferences over the years, the time has come to create a new movement for Black and Brown men in tech.
Thus, the Icon Project is born.
The Icon Project exists to advance the success of Black and Brown men in tech around the world. It creates experiences that spark self-awareness and build emotional intelligence. Our goal is to empower Black and Brown men to become leaders through our six Key Initiatives: mentorship, community, research, events, and the podcast.
Change Catalyst builds inclusive tech ecosystems through strategic advising, startup programs and resources, and a series of events around the globe. Using culture and behavior change strategies, we convene and advise the tech ecosystem to drive solutions to diversity and inclusion together: across education, workplace, entrepreneurship, policy, media/entertainment and ecosystem builders.