Blacks + Tech: ‘You have moments when you’re the only Black woman in the room’
Breanna Edwards, The Root | 4/2/2016, 9:20 a.m.
The tech industry has a long way to go in terms of adequately diversifying and incorporating the perspectives of different people from different backgrounds.
However, one lawyer is making strides in the often white and male-dominated arena, smashing open gates not only for herself but also for those who will come after her.
“You have those moments when you’re the only woman in the room, you’re the only black woman in the room and you kind of say, ‘Should I be here? Is this the right thing?’” Elke Suber, assistant general counsel at Microsoft, where she currently oversees global legal support for the company, tells The Root.
Suber says that she started out in digital entertainment and technology being heavily invested in gaming or the interactive side, which she describes as being even more male-dominated when she first got involved.
“You have to break through that and realize that you have to take a seat at the table and that you’ve got a background, a difference of opinion, that is going to bring something to the forefront or help add a different voice to the conversation,” she says.
“That’s what’s kept me going, and also just wanting to be a role model for others coming behind me,” she continues. “I can’t stress the importance of how role models, mentors and sponsors have been so critical and important to my own career.”
For Suber, the organization that’s guided her on her journey and provided her with those role models, mentors and sponsors is the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, which she now, perhaps fittingly, heads as chair of its board of directors, the second woman to do so in the organization’s 36 years of existence.
BESLA’s upcoming midyear conference is all about “Succeeding in the Entertainment and Sports Industries.” The conference, which will be held Monday at Fordham University in New York City, will include several panels covering topics from digital media to tips about climbing the corporate ladder.
Several big influencers will participate in the conference, with music-industry veteran L.A. Reid as a featured guest speaker and National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts headlining a special luncheon panel.
Suber attributes a good portion of her success to the knowledge and support she received at her first BESLA conference.
“A mentor suggested I go to [the BESLA conference] to just learn more, and so I attended, had a great time [and] went to so many amazing panels,” she says.
“One of the panels was on digital media, and I came out of that panel, out of learning from those industry influencers, and I thought to myself, ‘You know what? That’s what I want to do.’ And really, from that day forward, I literally started looking for opportunities to practice in digital entertainment, digital media, and took focus on copyright and technology issues,” she says.
From there, Suber became more and more active in the organization, working her way up through the years until she was invited to sit on the board of directors before ultimately becoming the chair. Suber describes her dedication as being such because of the ability to “give back” to other young lawyers in the same way that she was so deeply influenced.
“I have gotten a lot out of BESLA in terms of my career, in terms of development, in terms of networking and relations, and I want to be there just as those lawyers were there for me when I was a young lawyer, and help others find their passion and just really be prepared to succeed in this industry,” she says.