Black History Month 2020 – Contemporary Tech ProfessionalsIvy Gutierrez
One might think that, while the history of technology is predominantly white, surely the same can not be said nowadays. Unfortunately, that is not the case. African Americans are the largest racial minority in the United States, comprising an estimated 12.7% of the population (data comes from July 2016), yet companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook have only 2.5% of black employees, 3.4% and 4%, respectively.
We would be amiss to celebrate Black History Month without taking a moment to look at the individuals that are, right now, making black history in technology. Are you looking for strong connections? Do you want to find African Americans that may serve as role models, especially for teens and young adults just starting in tech? Here are some people you may want to look up.
In 2011, Bryant founded Black Girls Code, a training course that teaches basic programming concepts to black girls who are underrepresented in technology careers. This non-profit organization is dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts.
Commenting on the fact that major tech companies have minimal representation when it comes to people of color, and even worse for females, Bryant said that “there should be collective efforts to increase tech inclusion overall, the industry must work to specifically attract and retain women of color”.
Christopher Young is the ex chief executive officer of McAfee, a security business across hardware and software platforms. He stepped down a month ago from the position. The company generated revenue over three billion dollars with Young on the helm. He serves as a board member of American Express and Snap.
This Harvard and Princeton graduate says it is “important to have a sense of where you are going in a career, but sometimes life takes you in different directions”.
Ime Archibong is the director of product partnerships at Facebook where he leads a team working to connect Facebook’s products and strategies with various business partners. Prior to joining Facebook, Archibong was a software engineer at IBM.
Archibong’s passion is reaching the people that do not use Facebook or have access to internet, he says, explaining that “the question is how do you get those next 4.1 billion people who have never been connected online, and make sure they can get the same benefits and tools and experience that you and I are purview to, as a result of having connectivity”.
Melissa Hanna is co-founder of Mahmee, a Los Angeles tech company that works with health care systems and insurance companies to get women access to maternity care. Hanna is a graduate of Southwestern University School of Law.
Hanna says that while we can work on encouraging more people of color into STEM and create programs to help early stage founders grow their businesses, “it’s also about the investors being courageous enough to take risks and invest in people who are not like them”.
Tristan Walker is the co-founder of Code2040, an organization that aims to create a pipeline of talented black and Hispanic students and funnel them to some of the world’s biggest tech firms.
Born and raised in Queens, Walker credits his personal success to his background, saying it has “actually made me a lot stronger, a lot more resilient, a lot more confident in my ability to move faster out of need and necessity”.