Every Black History Month we are inundated with lists and tributes to great black historical figures. This is certainly important, and this month New Relic itself created an infographic recognizing black pioneers in computer science. However, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to some young black women of today who are pioneering advancement in the tech industry.
A study released by DigitalUndivided last year found that only 88 tech startups in the United States were run by black women, and their average level of funding was astoundingly low—around $36,000. However, despite these institutional disadvantages, black women are doing amazing things in tech. Here are some young black women in the tech space you should definitely keep your eye on.
Laura Weidman Powers: Co-Founder and CEO of Code2040
Laura Weidman Powers is the CEO and co-founder of Code2040, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to ensure that people of color are proportionally represented in America’s technology industry as technologists, investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs. Laura has a long history as an entrepreneur, previously co-founding two organizations before joining the Obama Administration in 2016 as a senior advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Laura is definitely a name to know—she’s been mentioned in numerous “people to watch” lists from Ebony to Fortune. She’s also outspoken about the state of diversity and inclusion in the industry, and with Code2040 she is putting her words and thoughts into action. Follow Laura on Twitter @laurawp
Erica Joy Baker: Senior Engineer at Slack
Erica Joy Baker, a senior software engineer at Slack, is a staunch advocate of expanding diversity and inclusion in the technology industry. She serves as a tech mentor for Black Girls Code and is on the advisory boards of Atipica and Hack the Hood. Before joining Slack, Erica worked at Google as a support technician and eventually a site reliability engineer (she’s often sending #hugops messages on Twitter). Erica is also a prolific writer and speaker and she writes a lot about life as a software engineer. By using her position to help others grow in the field, Erica Joy Baker is definitely someone making a positive change in the industry. Follow Erica on Twitter @EricaJoy
Kamilah Taylor: Senior Software Engineer at LinkedIn
In addition to her role as a senior software engineer at LinkedIn, Kamilah Taylor is also co-author of Women in Tech: Take Your Career to the Next Level with Actionable Steps. The book seeks to help all women in technology fields grow in their careers. Kamilah is also an active speaker and a regular panelist at technology events and conferences, where she often presents on diversity and inclusion, programming in Swift, building at scale, and working collaboratively. Originally from Jamaica, she speaks openly about the immigrant experience, sharing an interesting and much-needed viewpoint beyond just being a black woman in tech. Follow Kamilah on Twitter @Kamilah
Khalia Braswell: User Experience Engineer at Apple
Khalia Braswell is a user experience engineer at Apple, where she designs experiences for internal applications in the company’s IT department. In 2014 Khalia founded INTech Foundation, an organization focused on inspiring young girls to explore careers in the technology industry. Khalia is also active in organizations such as National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), contributes articles on Medium, and has an active Twitter account where she shares her thoughts about technology, politics, and Beyoncé. Follow Khalia on Twitter @KhaliaBraswell
Kaya Thomas: Computer Science Student at Dartmouth College
Kaya Thomas made a name for herself when she was honored as a M.A.D. girl at BET’s annual Black Girls Who Rock award show. The recognition came in part for her work in developing the We Read Too app, which lists children’s and young adult titles by writers of color. For her work on We Read Too, Kaya was honored by former First Lady Michelle Obama for her contributions to education. Kaya also co-founded a STEM camp in 2009, serves as a technical mentor for Black Girls Code, and writes frequently about the technology industry. Kaya is an alumna of Code2040, and she will be joining Slack to work on their iOS team after she graduates in 2017. Follow Kaya on Twitter @kthomas901
Angelica Ross: Founder and CEO of TransTech
Angelica Ross has led quite an exciting life. In 2013 the singer and songwriter decided it was time to enter the technology industry and try to make lasting change. She founded TransTech Social Enterprises, a training academy and apprenticeship program that aims to educate and employ members of the trans community in media and tech careers. Herself a trans woman, Angelica understood that trans and gender-nonconforming people face high levels of discrimination in many aspects of their lives, especially employment. TransTech’s mission is to help its members develop useful skills while working directly with clients and customers, empowering them both professionally and financially. Follow Angelica on Twitter @AngelicaRoss