What can we do?”
“How can I help?”
“Where are they?”
I’ve heard these questions posed by a venture capitalist, a journalist, and a “thought leader” in the past 6 months. They were asking me about black people – women in particular – in tech.
I always hesitate when I’m asked these questions because over time, I’ve come to realize that too many people ask these questions and wave the diversity flag because it’s the “right” thing to do. They want to avoid the PR nightmare that erupts when people admit to things like pattern matching or the absence of black faces in Silicon Valley so they politely ask and nod as I answer. Sometimes they follow up and do things. Most times, they don’t.
When I suspect sincerity, I share ideas like I did in this piece I wrote for Inc. I was especially pleased to see an outlet like Inc willing to promote the benefits of including black women in tech.
Then I woke up this morning to see that Inc had published its list of 10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2014. There were no black women on the list.
I have many hangups with these lists of people to watch and people under a certain age, but the biggest is probably that the people compiling them do a piss poor job of finding a diverse pool of talent to include. Apparently, Inc. learned nothing from Fast Company’s “25 Smartest Women on Twitter” debacle in which they managed to not include a single black woman. Of course, black Twitter read them up, down, and around, even sideways, for how ridiculous that was. People also side eyed the editors for allowing that to fly. Why didn’t someone stop and say, “Guys, this list is really pale…maybe we should add more melanin?”
To be clear, black women receiving press in tech goes much further than simple acknowledgment and shine. The existence of a list of women in tech suggests that if there was a “People to Watch in Tech” list, women may not appear in numbers that feel equitable. Inc.’s solution of creating a list just for women is great until they forget that there are dozens of incredible black women doing noteworthy work in tech. Aside from that, visibility for black women is a real issue. You can’t be what you can’t see. If we say we support diversity in tech and the efforts of organizations that promote it, that has to extend to the visibility of those already plugging away in tech. Additionally, people in a position to empower black women to succeed in tech can’t do so if they don’t know who these women are or what they’re doing.
So because I’m a woman who’s all about solutions and progress, I present a list of 10 Black Women to Watch in Tech…since the journalist couldn’t seem to find any.
Tiffani Bell – Founder + CEO, PencilYouIn
Sequoia Taylor – Early team member at Mattermark
Myleik Teele – Founder + CEO, CurlBox
Kellee James – Founder + CEO, Mercaris
Sian Morson – Founder + CEO, Kollective Mobile + Kollective South
Rachel A. Brooks – Founder + CEO, Citizen Made
Bianca L. St. Louis – Program Coordinator, CODE2040
Kelley O. Williams – Co-creator, Paige & Paxton
Stacy Brown-Philpot – COO, Task Rabbit
Zuhairah Scott Washington – Founder + CEO, Kahnoodle | GM @ Uber