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These Black Girl Bosses Are Breaking The Mold In The Tech Industry One Code At A Time

"Black women in tech are not a luxury, we're a necessity."

Workin' Girl

The tech industry is more than just men in hoodies glued to their desks in Silicon Valley. There are also beautiful Black women cracking the code every single day - and slaying while doing it. Each of the Black women included in the list below have created an app, a platform or a community based upon a need that they've identified or a hole that they sought out to fill with their relatability and brilliance. From food and science to self-love and mental health, Black women in tech are setting positive examples in the STEM field that encourages the confidence of other tech entrepreneurs on the rise.

xoNecole had a chance to speak with these leading Black girl bosses who are sprinkling their #BlackGirlMagic all over the tech industry. Here's what they had to say about their online communities and the importance of diversity and representation in the world of technology.

Carina Glover, CEO of HerHeadquarters

Courtesy of Carina Glover

The platform she created: "HerHeadquarters is a brand partnership platform exclusive to women entrepreneurs. Female founders and entrepreneurs all over the country use HerHeadquarters to quickly secure valuable brand partnerships with other women-owned brands. The platform currently houses 400+ women-owned brands from the fashion, beauty, entertainment, events, and PR industries."

The importance of Black women in tech: "We are the key to creating the products that will positively impact the lives of Black people and women. Until we create the solution, we (and everyone else who falls within the demographic) will continue to live in the problem. Our experiences, perspectives, and culture are unlike those who currently dominate the tech world. They can't develop products that solve problems they've never experienced because they can't relate, therefore they don't see the need for the products. Black women in tech are not a luxury, we're a necessity."

Advice for budding tech entreprenueHERs: "Don't be afraid to take up space. You don't have to be an expert in every area, but learn as much as you can, even outside of your area of focus. Find someone that can mentor you, someone who sees your potential and wants to help water the seed in you."

"Don't be afraid to take up space. You don't have to be an expert in every area, but learn as much as you can, even outside of your area of focus. Find someone that can mentor you, someone who sees your potential and wants to help water the seed in you."

Riana Lynn, Founder of Journey Foods

Courtesy of Riana Lynn

The platform she created: "Journey Foods solves food science and supply chain inefficiencies with software in order to help companies feed eight billion people better. [We do this through] technology that improves product management and development for CPG companies, ingredient suppliers, and manufacturers. In addition to helping food manufacturers create better products, we also use the power of our data to create experimental snacks that help us test our AI called Journey Bites. They're nutrient dense, micro foods that we release for sale online and Amazon."

The inspiration behind her platform: "Globally, consumers spend three trillion [dollars] on packaged foods every year. This number is set to eclipse jump from 700-900 billion in the US by the end of the year. These products, packaged and manufactured foods, account for over 70 percent of our daily caloric intake. At the same time, there's clear evidence that much of the food we eat is related to the increase in chronic diseases - cancer, diabetes, and poor mental health."

The importance of Black women in tech: "As a black woman, I want to continue to solve problems for myself, family, friends, and communities across the globe. Even though black women are one of the fastest growing sectors in entrepreneurship, it is a challenging road for the most impactful industries in the world which happen to be dominated by old heads: agriculture and tech. I want to continue to breakthrough on growth, servant leadership, and impact that will help inspire the next crop of black women that can solve the world's greatest challenges."

Joy Ofodu, Coordinator of #ShareBlackStories

Courtesy of Joy Ofodu

The community for which she leads the brand effort: "#ShareBlackStories, Instagram's first multi-channel program, call to action, and campaign to support and inspire our Black community. Since launching in the U.S. in Feb 2019, #ShareBlackStories has also taken root in the U.K. and Brazil."

The inspiration behind her community: "The U.S. Black community is so active and vibrant on Instagram. We share a sense of pride, perseverance and promote a shared cultural identity that is emulated by so many others. In February 2019, our Black employees were inspired by this and knew it was important to create a space within the app for Black people to fearlessly express themselves. I helped to create a unifying brand identity across our existing efforts, brainstorm new applications and stepped up to coordinate the efforts of over 11 teams including Editorial, Product, Partnerships, Design and Policy. Since 2019, we've partnered with hundreds of creators, businesses and public figures to bring #ShareBlackStories to life online and in-person, including Jackie Aina, Jidenna, Ruth Carter, Overbrook Productions and Afropunk."

The importance of Black women in tech: "When people envision a tech wiz or hacker, they envision a white man from the Silicon Valley. They forget that Black women are expert hackers by nature, some of the most creative problem solvers. Even though Black women make up less than 5% of most major tech company workforces, we play such vital roles in these organizations, both in STEM roles and non-STEM roles, serving as inspiration to other girls. Our presence helps to validate that yes, we are brilliant and deserving of the opportunity to serve a global user base. Sometimes we can't be what we can't see. Finally, when we are represented at the table, we can help make our companies more empathetic to and supportive of Black users."

"Our presence helps to validate that yes, we are brilliant and deserving of the opportunity to serve a global user base. Sometimes we can't be what we can't see. Finally, when we are represented at the table, we can help make our companies more empathetic to and supportive of Black users."

OlanikeeOsi, CEO/Founder of SelfishBabe

Courtesy of OlanikeeOsi

The app she created: "The SelfishBabe App is my self-love app that sends women a daily affirmation and self-love reminder. SelfishBabe is about women selfishly and authentically loving themselves. Choosing themselves and creating a life they enjoy. It puts self-love at the forefront, really themselves, when usually many women would put themselves at the backseat and put others first."

The inspiration behind her app: "I wanted there to be one place where you could have personal development. A few years back I was big into personal development, learning about spirituality, the law of attraction, crystals, and the power of our words. I had already seen and been inspired by BossBabe and ManifestationBabe. I wanted to change the way we viewed the word selfish. When one thinks of being selfish they usually think about someone who is mean and greedy. With SelfishBabe I just want women to think about them putting themselves first because honestly when it comes to self-love, you are placing yourself first and you're not thinking of anyone else but you, so it is SELFISH but not in the negative way people usually think about it. Being selfish actually helps humanity. Imagine if more women were selfish with themselves where the world would be right now."

Advice for budding tech entreprenueHERs: "My advice would be to be patient, have your vision of what you want your tech to do, how you want it to impact the world and have a way that it will make money eventually. Have patience because at least in my experience, tech is a long haul thing. You have to build up visibility about what you have and why it's important and you probably spend a good penny on developing it, without immediate return. This can be frustrating if you don't know this in the beginning and may make you want to quit. Don't quit if you really have the vision for it."

Amanda Spann, Founder of The App Accelerator

Courtesy of Amanda Spann

The community she created: "The App Accelerator is an online program and community that provides a framework for non-technical and aspiring entrepreneurs to build their first app. We pair our robust curriculum with group and 1:1 coaching and add an additional layer of support with our resource repository to provide you with every asset you need to make your app business a reality."

The inspiration behind her community: "Creating my first app was a long, hard and lonely process. I blew thousands of dollars and wasted countless hours aimlessly trying to navigate the path from idea to app. Building any product is difficult, but it can be a particularly challenging task when you're non-technical. It can feel like a never-ending trail of Google searches, technical jargon and a good ol' boys club that you don't necessarily have a membership to. As I was building and some of my apps rose in popularity, I started to receive hundreds of emails from nearly every continent from people who had similar stories, 'Amanda, I have an app idea but I don't know where to start.'

"The App Accelerator was my own 'reply-all' of sorts to each and everyone of those messages. I wanted to let people know that everyone has to start somewhere and it's OK to not know what you don't know. Your ideas still hold value and you are capable of building them from anywhere, at nearly any budget. The App Accelerator is my roadmap for making your app ideas happen."

Advice for budding tech entreprenueHERs: "If nothing else, have the audacity to continually show up for yourself, even on the days you don't feel capable, confident or worthy. Give yourself the patience to make mistakes and the grace to keep going."

"If nothing else, have the audacity to continually show up for yourself, even on the days you don't feel capable, confident or worthy. Give yourself the patience to make mistakes and the grace to keep going."

Quincy K. Brown, Ph. D., Co-Founder of blackcomputeHER

Courtesy of Quincy K. Brown, Ph. D.

The inspiration behind her community: "blackcomputHER.org was born out of the lived experiences of the three co-founders. We each have Ph.Ds in Computer Science and met as graduate students. Throughout our years in graduate school and early in our post-PhD careers, we would see each other at conferences and remark about the small number of Black women with visible roles, e.g. presenters, keynote speakers, committee chairs, etc., in the community. We would often have these conversations at night after the day's conference programming ended. These became known as the 'Conference after the Conference'. At some point we realized that our community was dope enough such that for us, the 'Conference after the Conference' really was the conference that we all needed to sustain ourselves, to learn and grow from our experiences and to be the support for each other that we need.

"We started the conference as a means of organizing the community of Black women in computing and tech by developing an agenda that we can implement and scale. We created the annual #blackcomputeHER conference to be a safe space for us to gather. A time when we can be ourselves, turn off our guards, and have the frank conversations that we know we need. The conference is a gathering for us, not about us, and a time unlike any other when we can speak about our technical expertise and the other topics of importance to us. The organization grew out of this effort as a structure to enable us to do the work."

The importance of Black women in tech: "Representation matters because we matter. Black women in the computing [and] tech world matter. We contribute, we innovate, we create, and we lead at every level. The research literature about Black women and girls in computing [and] tech is scant. The narrative about Black women in tech, who we are, where we come from, what our interests are, what works for us, etc. has not been created by us. The representation of Black women that is based on 'our' truth is important because it allows us to be free of other people's perceptions of what we can or cannot, should or should not, do or be. The freedom of 'dropping the mask' and just being who we are is not afforded to us, generally, and even less so in tech. Having visible representation that highlights the breadth and depth of who we are and our accomplishments allows us to see ourselves in the space that we have contributed to and created."

Davinia Tomlinson, Founder of rainchq

Photo Credit: Simeon Thaw

Courtesy of Davinia Tomlinson

The platform she created: "rainchq is a membership platform created to help women take control of their financial futures. 'Rainmakers' gain access to financial education, qualified and regulated financial advice from female financial advisers and events focused on all aspects of holistic well-being – all delivered digitally."

The inspiration behind her platform: "As someone who has spent my entire career in the world of investment management, it was obvious that women are chronically underrepresented, not just in terms of visibility in senior leadership roles within the industry, but also in terms of the client base. There are a number of different financial challenges women face which have become more prominent in recent years, from the gender pay gap, to the gender investing gap, all of which have the potential to cripple us in later life. rainchq was set up to provide practical solutions to help address this gloomy picture through education, advice and online community in a mutually supportive and ultimately enriching environment. My ambition is to build a global community of rainmakers who are smashing it, not just professionally but financially too."

The importance of Black women in tech: "I live by the mantra 'if you can't see it, you can't be it', which has become even more important to me as a mother of two young daughters. Black women are trailblazers in whichever field we choose to pursue, however the importance of role models in helping us recognize our capabilities and importantly see what the possibilities are for women who look like us is invaluable."

"Black women are trailblazers in whichever field we choose to pursue, however the importance of role models in helping us recognize our capabilities and importantly see what the possibilities are for women who look like us is invaluable."

Nichelle McCall Browne, Co-Founder of Bramework

Courtesy of Nichelle McCall Browne

The platform she created: "Bramework is my second tech Startup. I started BOLD Guidance in 2013 to help students apply to college and raised $1/2 million in a year as a non-technical founder (putting me in the .02% of black women to raise venture capital for a tech company). Now I'm working on my second startup, Bramework, helping small businesses create high quality blog posts in minutes. Bramework is a marketing department in your pocket. Helping small businesses that can't afford to hire a specialized team produce blog content regularly so their customers can find them online. When you produce quality content regularly on your website, Google starts to index more pages, which can help you rank higher in search engines. We've found that digital marketing strategists and entrepreneurs love Bramework because they can produce more quality content faster, especially in this current COVID-19 environment where more businesses need to be found online but have limited resources."

The importance of Black women in tech: "Black women bring their own experiences and perspectives, so we see problems, opportunities, and solutions differently. We tap into markets that may be a barrier of entry for others because they don't understand the nuisances of the customer's problems, needs or how to connect with them. If it wasn't for Black women, there would be no Miss Jessie's, Carol's Daughter or NaturAll Club. If it wasn't for black women in tech, there would be no digitalundivided, Blavity, or Travel Noire. Exposure lets other women see what's possible for them, while being a voice at the table opens up the way for more Black women. It's like when Kimberly Bryant created Black Girls CODE – once women and girls started to see people who look like them and had someone open the doors to opportunities in tech, we saw a huge increase of black girls being interested in tech. We must continue to open the doors and support each other along the way. We do better when we come up together."

Advice for budding tech entreprenueHERs: "When building your tech company, focus on finding your right paying customer and generating revenue. This is the number one thing I teach entrepreneurs in my courses. Make sure all your milestones and activities point to revenue generating goals. Don't put too much focus on raising money and what the stats say about Black women raising venture capital. When your number one concern is creating a product that solves your customer's biggest challenge, it's easier to sell it and the money will come. It's always easier to raise money when you have money. But even if it takes longer to raise money, your business is OK because you're making the money that can help you to grow. Plus, you give up less equity when your company is making more."

Featured image courtesy of Joy Ofodu

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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