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Exclusive: Former VS Model Talks Coding, Couture & Changing The Status Quo

Lyndsey Scott is what happens when STEM meets stilletos.

Human Interest

Maybe one day the world will stop underestimating Black women, but until then Lyndsey Scott —actress, Victoria's Secret model, first Black woman to receive a contract with Calvin Klein at New York Fashion Week, and a noted iOS coder— is here to put the haters in their place.

Earlier this fall, the meme Instagram account @Coding.Engineer originally reposted an image highlighting Lyndsey's coding and modeling experience, headlining the meme with the caption, "CODING IS FOR ANYONE!" Unsurprisingly, numerous people threw jabs in the comments, suggesting that her coding experience was overstated, concluding it was a "shame" that she chose to model.

In response, Lyndsey clapped back at online trolls who tried to box her in: "I have 27481 points on StackOverflow; I'm on the iOS tutorial team for RayWendelich.com; I'm the lead iOS software engineer for @RallyBound, the 841st fastest growing company in the US according to @incmagazine, I have a Bachelor's degree from Amherst where I double majored in computer science and theater, and I'm able to live my life doing everything I love. Looking at these comments I wonder why 41% of women in technical careers drop out because of a hostile work environment," she wrote in an Instagram comment responding to negative opinions.

According to statistics from Fast Company and the EEOC, the percentage share of Black female professionals in tech has continued to decline despite targeted diversity initiatives aimed at increasing underrepresented minorities. Between 2007 and 2015, there was a 13% decrease in the number of Black female professionals in the tech field and we can look to the historical intersectional struggles that women of color face in the STEM field, as contributing factors. Organizations like @BlackGirlsCode, @WomenWhoCode, and @GirlsWhoCode strive to introduce and support women and girls as they pursue technical careers, hopefully increasing interest and overall retention in the field.

In celebration of #NationalSTEMDay and providing you with your daily dose of #Blackgirlmagic, xoNecole recently connected with Lyndsey to discuss her modeling career, passion for coding, and her dream to change the status quo.

xoNecole: Tell us a bit about your background, modeling journey, and educational pursuits leading to your interest in STEM.

Lyndsey Scott: I entered Amherst College majoring in theater and realized at one point that I had time to pick up a second major. So, I tried economics and physics, then happened to take a computer science class on a whim... I took to programming right away [and realized that] I love that type of problem-solving. I ended up graduating as a theater and computer science double major. Immediately after college, I started acting in New York City and eventually ended up signing onto an acting agency with a modeling department. After a year and a half of doing both, the modeling took off first.

Before I knew it, I was suddenly the first African American to land an exclusive contract with Calvin Klein, and as a result, I decided to devote my energy to modeling. I ended up working with Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Vogue, W Magazine, and many other brands by the end of the year.

What motivates you?

Doing what I love motivates me. And I feel fortunate that I've been able to structure my life in a way where I have the freedom to do everything I love. I wrote a screenplay earlier this year that tells a true story that's very important to me, and it's currently in pre-production. Since I've been in Los Angeles, I've had the freedom to produce, audition, and go to my weekly acting classes, while still being able to code at home for 20 hours a week; working on cool technologies with great clients. I enjoy the balance that comes from using both sides of my mind.

What has been your biggest success or favorite moment as a model?

Last year, I put together a workshop for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. I assembled a team of badass female programming mentors. The Girl Scouts had so much fun coding their own websites and meeting a bunch of talented female role models.

What are some challenges and/or stereotypes that you face as a model, female in STEM, and Black woman – or a combination if they intersect?

I had trouble landing an iOS job until I went the extra mile to prove my expertise by answering a bunch of questions on Stack Overflow and writing tutorials. Before then, although I had coded several apps on my own and had a Bachelor's [degree] in Computer Science, I didn't feel like I was being taken seriously. There were times I'd walk into a room of male programmers and they'd abruptly end their conversation about coding because, as they said, "I wouldn't be interested."

Are there any resources/communities you believe women of color should pursue in order to find support for their interest in STEM?

Black Girls Code is a wonderful organization for young girls [interested in tech]. Although I haven't personally used Women Who Code as a resource, I hear great things about them as well. What's one piece of advice you would offer girls and women interested in pursuing a future in STEM?

From the experience I've had after commenting under that @coding.engineer post, I've learned that it's important to speak up for yourself whenever you feel misunderstood.

Five Random Things:

    1. Favorite food? I love variety and trying new things. So, my favorites don't stay favorite for long.
    2. Favorite hair product? The Glamsquad app.
    3. Instagram or Twitter? Instagram
    4. Apple or Android? Apple — I'm an iOS developer after all! ;)
    5. One thing you can't live without? I do love my dog an awful lot.

To keep up with Lyndsey, follow her on Instagram!

Featured image by lev radin / Shutterstock.com

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
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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