Black Women in Tech, 2016

Here are some shout outs to the many impressive black women that did fantastic work in tech in 2016.

by Terri Burns on December 14th, 2016

Three black women in tech gathered around a conference room with their laptops.

Photo CC-BY WOCinTech Chat.

Let’s face it: 2016 has been a rough year, and many of us are happily counting down the days for it to end. But while there have certainly been woes, there have also been some incredible developments from people within the technology industry, made by people who are actively working to make this field and community richer. In particular, black women have worked incredibly hard creating, innovating, challenging, and moving the world of technology.

What better time than now to shed some light on a few of the amazing accomplishments made by black women this year? 2016 may have been tough for the world, but black women in tech managed to achieve greatness nonetheless. Here are some shout outs to the many impressive black women that did fantastic work in tech in 2016. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is an opportunity to celebrate just a little bit of the greatness by, for, and through black women.

Without further ado:

  1. Erica Baker and Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founding members of Project Include: Baker and and Hutchinson are two of eight founders for Project Include, a resource for technology companies looking to build diverse and inclusive teams.
  2. Aisha Bowe, Co-Founder and CEO of STEMBoard: STEMBoard is a technology solutions company that works to close the achievement gap. This year, Bowe did an awesome talk for Makers’ Pearl xChange Conference about STEM, being a woman, and writing your own narrative.
  3. Morgen Bromell, CEO of Thurst:  Thurst officially launched in 2016. CEO Bromell led a team that’s brought us the first dating app for queer people of all genders.
  4. Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO Black Girls CODE: Black Girls CODE, led by Bryant, announced this year that the organization will be moving into Google’s New York offices, a huge step towards increasing the number of women of color in the digital space.
  5. Tani Brown, Director of Partnerships for Jopwell: Jopwell is a career hub for Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and professionals. Brown leads the sales team and oversees new partnership opportunities for Jopwell, and this year was featured on USA Today, Ebony, and other publications, discussing how platforms like Jopwell can help close the diversity gap in tech.
  6. Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO TaskRabbit: Stacy, former COO of TaskRabbit and Google employee for many years, was named CEO of TaskRabbit this year! Brown-Philpot is also on the Board of Directors of HP and was once named one of Fortune’s 40 Under 40.
  7. Morgan DeBaun, Co-founder and CEO of Blavity: It’s been a great year for DeBaun and the Blavity team! This year, Blavity raised over $1 million in funding, and rebuilt their platform to enable user-generated content. They aso held their inaugural EmpowerHer Conference in New York City, and their inaugural AfroTech Conference in San Francisco.
  8. Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi: Dyson is the CEO of Kiverdi, a company that transforms carbon dioxide and other gases into protein, high-value oils, and bio-based products. This year she did an excellent TED Talk on some of the developments her team has worked on.
  9. Kathryn Finney, Founder and managing director of digitalundivided: This year, Finney launched the BIG Innovation Center and BIG Incubator in Atlanta. The program is specifically designed for black and Latina women founders from around the US.
  10. Camille Hearst, Founder and CEO, Kit: In 2016, Kit raised $2.5M in seed funding (and Hearst did a great writeup on her journey!). Kit allows you to share and discover new and interesting products, grouped together in bundles called kits.
  11. Alona King, Michelle McGhee, and Lindsey Redd, Co-Hosts of Three Unicorns (SoundCloud/iTunes): This trio is composed of a group of black computer science students at Stanford University. The three friends just launched a podcast about their experiences as students and black women in tech industry. In their pilot episode, they discuss being (and sometimes not being) motivated in their technology internships, and they give shout outs to some of the things they love.
  12. Amélie Lamont and Catt Small, founding members of Good for POC in Tech: Lamont and Small are two of three founding members for Good for POC in Tech, a growing list of technology companies that provide inclusive and safe environments for people of color. (Good for POC in Tech was also a funded project for Fund Club.) This year, Small also created the popular blog series How to Become a Public Speaker in One Year, started working at Etsy, and launched a game called Breakup Squad. Lamont’s now working as a Product Designer at the New York Times, is a Startingbloc Social Innovation Fellow, and did an interview with Model View Culture earlier this year.
  13. Terri Lomax, User Operations Specialist at Asana: This year Lomax revamped her blog Mocha Girls Pit Stop, which is a community for woman of color seeking inspiration, healing from past hurts, and helping you achieve your goals.
  14. Ama Marfo, founder and CEO of Airfordable: Marfo led the team for Airfordable, one of Y Combinator’s Summer ‘16 portfolio companies, which lets you book expensive flights and pay for them over a period of time.
  15. Jessica O. Matthews, Founder & CEO Uncharted Play: This year Jessica O. Mathews and team raised $7M in Series A funding for Uncharted Play, an awesome renewable energy tech startup.
  16. Safiya Miller, Microsoft Account Executive: This year Miller launched Microsoft’s Black Employee Resource Group chapter for Northern California. Externally, this group works to improve minorities’ exposure to the technology industry. Internally, it focuses on career development and retention.
  17. Zakiyyah Myers, Co-Founder & COO of Innclusive: This year was the launch of Innclusive, an Airbnb competitor made specifically to be more inclusive for people of color.
  18. Dara Oke, Program Manager at Microsoft: In addition to killing the blogging game, this techie launched a creative agency for design and technology this year.
  19. Iyore Olaye, Product Engineer at Walker and Company Brands:  Olaye was the only black woman chemical engineer in the 2016 graduating class at Cornell University, as well as just one of six black women in the entire engineering school. After posting about her accomplishment on Facebook, Iyore received much recognition. Iyore now serves as a mentor for young women and STEM and currently works on consumer products to make health and beauty simple for people of color.
  20. Shaveela Raniga, Production Assistant, Zenith Talent Staffing at Google’s Publishing Team (Daydream): Raniga is the Creator and CEO of Next Generation News, an initiative dedicated to educating youth in Oakland on the fundamentals of creating digital content, and the Producer and Creator of SR Productions, which partners with youths alongside organizations that work on projects based in the Bay Area. Raniga is currently the Production Assistant, Zenith Talent Staffing at Google’s Publishing Team (Daydream).  
  21. Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, Founding Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital: Schumacher-Hodge launched Mandela SH this year, which are daily content updates that provide you with information and tips to lead a great life. See some of her videos here.
  22. Aminatou Sow, Editor-At-Large of Racked: Sow continues to lead Tech Lady Mafia, which supports women who work in and around the internet. She also became the Editor-At-Large of Racked, as well as started a newsletter and shop with her team at Call Your Girlfriend, the popular podcast she co-hosts.
  23. Erin Teague, Virtual Reality Product Lead at YouTube: After leading Yahoo’s product team as Director of Product for a few years, Teague is now leading YouTube’s Virtual Reality product team.
  24. Kristy Tillman, Co-Founder of Tomorrow Looks Bright: Tillman helped start Tomorrow Looks Bright, a biweekly newsletter showcasing the black creativity of women around the globe. (TLB was also a funded project for Fund Club.) Tillman also became the Head of Communication Design at Slack this year, and did a great talk at 99u Conference.
  25. Aniyia Williams, Tinsel: After a successful Indiegogo campaign in 2015, Tinsel started shipping their tech jewelry piece, The Dipper audio necklace, to customers this fall. New units are available for purchase and more products are scheduled for 2017.

A black woman working on a laptop in a data center.

Photo CC-BY WOCinTech Chat.

We live in trying times and the technology industry has not traditionally been very kind or welcoming to black women, so making strides in this industry is a true feat. You can support the work of these women by visiting some of the aforementioned websites, spreading the word about their work, and most importantly, donating to the causes and institutions that they are building or that are supporting their work.  

Together, we’ve made it through 2016, and together we can continue lifting up the voices of those who need it most. Black women have accomplished far more than indicated on this list, but hopefully it served as an opportunity to highlight some good that came of this year. Think of someone not mentioned who deserves a shout out? Tweet about them using the hashtag #BlackTechLadies16. Spread the word, spread the love.