A key factor behind black women in tech and innovation is seen in the industry due to diversity
It’s no secret that the technology industry has a diversity problem. In 2016 Black folks made up 11.9 percent of all U.S. workers yet held only 7.9 percent of jobs in computer and math occupations, says the Brookings Institution. Black women in tech, in particular, have been underrepresented, holding only 3 percent of tech jobs in 2015, according to the National Centre for Women & Information Technology.
Despite those numbers, it’s apparent that sisters are undaunted by this challenge. Instead of worrying about grim statistics, they are breaking barriers and bridging the gap in the tech world, whether through coding, gaming, or entrepreneurship. Meet the ladies making their mark who share why other Black women in tech may want to follow in their footsteps.
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson : (President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson has had a distinguished career that includes senior leadership positions in academia, government, industry, and research. She is the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT (specializing in Physics). She leveraged her knowledge of physics to advance telecommunications research at Bell Laboratories which influenced the creation of the portable fax, touch-tone phone, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
Ursula Burns : (Executive Chairman & CEO of VEON)
Ursula Burns is currently the Executive Chairman and CEO at VEON, and the former CEO of Xerox, the first black woman in tech to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. At Xerox, Burn held various roles across planning, strategy, and product development, including the VP of Global Manufacturing and VP of Corporate Strategic Services, before being named CEO. During her CEO tenure, she led the acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services, which transformed Xerox from a copy and printing company to a technology and services enterprise. Burns retired as CEO of Xerox in 2016.
Valerie Thomas : (Former Associate Chief of NASA Space Science Data Operations)
Valerie Thomas is best known for inventing the illusion transmitter during her long career at NASA. The device is still in use today, and scientists are currently working on ways to incorporate it into tools for modern medicine and technology.
Jacqueline D. Woods : (Chief Marketing Officer, IBM Global Business Partners)
Jacqueline Woods is the Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Global Business Partners, driving the growth of the Next Generation Partner Ecosystem with a focus on IBM Cloud and AI technologies. She previously served as the Global Vice President & CMO of IBM Global Financing. With over 20 years of experience in technology, working at top firms such as Oracle, GE, and Verizon, Woods has held P&L and senior leadership roles in Strategy, Sales, and Business Development.
Dr. Valerie Taylor : (Director of Mathematics & Computer Science at DOE)
Dr. Valerie Taylor is the director of the Mathematics and Computer Science (MCS) division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. She previously served as the Royce E. Wisenbaker Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.
Ruth O. Davis : (Regional Leader for IBM Summit Program)
Ruth O. Davis has over three decades of progressive experience and recognition for success in technology consulting, sales leadership, and marketing program management. Davis’s career began as a Systems Engineer at IBM after earning a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Temple University at age 18. She transitioned into sales, entered management, and became one of the youngest branch managers at IBM, managing over 150 employees and responsible for $250M in annual sales.
Dr. Patricia Bath : (Former Chair of Ophthalmology at Drew-UCLA)
Dr. Patricia Bath is best known for inventing the Laserphaco Probe; this device, along with a new surgical method, has made the removal of cataracts less invasive and risky for patients globally. She created the device after years of research on glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye conditions. Dr. Bath also founded the Community Ophthalmology System, after discovering African Americans were 8x more likely to develop glaucoma.
Janice Wilkins : (Former Vice President of Finance & Director of Internal Audit, Intel Corporation)
Janice Wilkins spent 29 years at Intel in several corporate finances and operational roles, including US Head of Human Resources and Vice President of Finance. She was responsible for Intel’s global internal audit, overseeing investigative, ethics, and compliance operations teams.
Before her long career as in black woman in tech, Wilkins spent time across the oil and gas, shipping, banking, and real estate industries. She has been featured in Ebony Magazine as a top-ranking African American woman in business and named the Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year by Iota Lambda sorority.