The Black Women Behind Some of Technology’s Most Influential Companies
The statistics are clear: There is a stark shortage of women in leadership roles at top technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. When it comes to addressing the lack of black women in managerial or senior roles within the industry, the numbers are grim.
Despite their gross underrepresentation, several black women are paving pathways for innovation and increased diversity at their respective companies. Their roles run the gamut, from serving as lead software engineers to heading up strategy to directing public policy or creative marketing campaigns. We’ve compiled a list of eight black women leading America’s most prominent technology brands.
Title: Chief executive officer
Stacy Brown-Philpot was named CEO at TaskRabbit earlier this month, after having served as the company’s chief operating officer for three years. A passion for the convergence of operational, analytical and strategic execution inspired Brown-Philpot to join the company in 2013. Prior to joining TaskRabbit, Brown-Philpot served as entrepreneur-in-residence at Google Ventures, lending strategic expertise to the firm’s portfolio companies.
“TaskRabbit will change the face of how work gets done every day and I will continue to invest in our talent and build on our empowered, entrepreneurial culture,” Brown-Philpot told The Root. “Just as important, we must commit to a new level of operational excellence with focused execution and strong cost discipline. I’m excited to get started.”
2. Erica Baker
Title: Senior engineer
Erica Baker is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in tech and for expanding access to tech education. She joined Slack in 2015 and currently serves on the advisory boards for Atipica and Hack the Hood and is a tech mentor for Black Girls Code.
“To be honest, all of my work at Slack is exciting. It’s not every day I get to architect a build and release infrastructure from the ground up. Opportunities like this aren’t afforded to black women often, so it’s great to be recognized for the skills and expertise I bring to the role,” Baker told The Root.
Title: Senior manager, brand marketing
Cassidy Blackwell leads brand marketing at Walker & Co. Brands, the company behind the men’s grooming line Bevel. Since her days as a natural-hair blogger, Blackwell has been dedicated to empowering and educating men and women of color within the health and beauty industries. “It was a big pivot, to go from women’s beauty into men’s grooming, but then I realized that despite all of the differences—the two communities have a lot of the same needs,” Blackwell told The Root.
“One of the things that excites me the most about Bevel and Walker & Co. is that we use technology to solve these decades-old problems that people of color have dealt with. Razor bumps are a massive problem for men of color and it’s awesome to be on a team that wholly dedicated to leveraging our Silicon Valley and tech adjacency to solve problems in this area,” she said.
Title: Strategic outreach and public policy partnerships
Chanelle Hardy is the newest member of the public policy team at Google, leading outreach and partnerships for the technology behemoth. As an attorney and public policy expert, Hardy is dedicated to advancing policies that promote economic growth, opportunity and justice.
“It’s exciting to work in a culture that values ideas and an entrepreneurial approach,” Hardy told The Root. “I get to leverage my policy relationships and expertise to promote smart and inclusive tech and telecom policy.”
Title: General manager
Zuhairah Washington is currently the general manager for Uber’s D.C. Metro business, which includes Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. In this capacity, Washington led the regional launches of uberX, uberPOOL, uberWAV and uberFAMILY. She has also played an integral role in getting industry regulations passed in all three jurisdictions.
“The most impactful part of my work has been empowering women and minority communities with entrepreneurship opportunities furnished by the Uber platform,” Washington told The Root.
Title: Senior counsel
“A few of my proudest moments in my career, particularly at Facebook, don’t just stem from deals that I’ve closed, but from recognizing a need and filling it outside of my legal role–most notably in the supplier diversity space,” Williams shared with Black Enterprise. “Advocating for diversity hires is another, and seeing the fruits of that labor with new hires just in my department has been very rewarding.”
Title: Software engineer
Omosola Odetunde is on the risk and fraud teams, where she has led projects to help protect Shopify merchants and their customers from fraud. Outside of her risk work, she’s worked on several initiatives around hiring, inclusivity and onboarding
“I really enjoy thinking about how to make things around me better, whether that’s related to office facilities, processes for the risk analysts I work with, intern recruitment or onboarding. Having the space for this as well as flexibility and support has been really exciting and encouraging,” Odetunde told The Root.
Title: Program manager, Xbox
Jasmine Lawrence is a program manager on the Xbox One console-engineering team, where she has been responsible for cross-platform user experience and for building apps like the virtual keyboard and other settings on the popular gaming system.
Voted a 2014 Young Futurist by The Root, Lawrence is also the founder of Eden BodyWorks, a more-than-decade-old hair-care brand she launched when she was 13, which now sells in Target, Wal-Mart and Sally’s Beauty Supply.
Sherrell Dorsey is a social-impact storyteller who started coding at the age of 14 and now speaks and writes frequently on the intersections of sustainability, technology and digital inclusion. Follow her on Twitter.