SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has named one of the nation’s most prominent black corporate leaders, American Express‘ Kenneth Chenault, to its board of directors.
The appointment, which gives the social media giant the guidance of a highly regarded finance executive and the first black director on its all-white board, was the culmination of years of recruitment efforts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”
Chenault announced in October that he would retire as chairman and CEO of American Express on Feb. 1, capping a 16-year run.
Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandbergtold the Congressional Black Caucus in October that the social media giant was in talks to bring aboard its first black board member but she did not disclose the person’s identity.
The striking lack of people of color in the executive suite and on the boards of Silicon Valley companies won’t come as a culture shock to Chenault, one of the longest-serving black CEOs of a major U.S. corporation and a veteran of an industry dominated by white men in its top management ranks. The appointment to the Facebook board, effective Feb. 5, comes after years of lobbying by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson to add people of color to the company’s directors.
Diversity remains a top challenge for Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies that are mostly staffed by white and Asian men. Top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, USA TODAY research showed.
Minorities are also sharply underrepresented in non-technical jobs such as sales and administration, with African Americans faring noticeably worse than Hispanics, according to USA TODAY analysis of the employment records of Facebook, Google and Yahoo in 2014.
Women now make up 35% of Facebook’s global workforce, up from 33%, and hold 19% of technical roles, up from 17%, the Menlo Park, Calif. company said last year.
In the U.S., Facebook has brought aboard more people of color. Three percent of Facebook workers are African American, up from 2%, and 5% of them are Hispanic, up from 4%.
But Facebook fell short where the lack of diversity is most acute, in the proportion of African-American and Hispanic workers in technical roles, which has stayed flat at 1% and 3% respectively since 2014. The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in senior leadership positions at Facebook has also remained largely unchanged.
Chenault was the second black Fortune 500 CEO to announce plans to step down in 2017, along with Xerox Corp.’s Ursula Burns. Less than 5% of the 200 largest U.S. companies are led by African Americans, according to a 2016 report from recruitment firm Spencer Stuart.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Chenault, 66, has been with American Express since 1981. He serves on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble and non-profit groups including the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He’s also a philanthropist who took a lead role in raising money for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
When Chenault announced he was stepping down from American Express, Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest AmEx shareholder, said in a statement that he was the “gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.”
It’s common knowledge that the tech industry has a diversity problem. Employee demographics clearly show a dearth of women and untapped minorities in the leading technology firms. Then when black and Latinx founders do decide to start businesses of their own they often struggle to raise capital. Research by the #ProjectDiane, for example, reveals African-American female founders raised a mere 0.2 percent of venture funding from 2012-2014. With that being said, there are many young and talented innovators and entrepreneurs of color making waves.
Last month a handful of these trailblazers attended the Culture Shifting Weekend‘s ‘Millennial Breakfast’ at SAP in Palo Alto. Founders were given a platform to talk about their startups to a room full of industry heavyweights. The mission is simple. Create a safe space for diverse talent to secure support, expertise, and partnerships with key players in the tech ecosystem. Co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought, Maci Peterson, at the Culture Shifting Weekend. Peterson was just one of the founders who presented her startup at Millennial Breakfast.
Lloyd Carney, CEO of Brocade Communications Systems, was just one of the influencers in attendance. Carney, a Jamaican immigrant, recently sold his company for $5.5 billion. Other attendees included Danny Allen, VP Diversity & Inclusion, SAP; Jacqueline Jones, Strategic Partnerships, Global Inclusion, LinkedIn; and Rachel Spivey, Diversity Specialist, Google, among others.“I added an element to the event,” said Andrea Hoffman, CEO of the management consultancy Culture Shift Labs, who organized the annual Silicon Valley event.
“We had a Millennial Tech Entrepreneurs and Influencers Breakfast that was sponsored by Vista Equity Partners. It was an experiment and it went really well. There’s more to come from in terms of millennial tech entrepreneurs of color.”From software to recruitment, check out this list of 20 black and brown millennial innovators and founders who all presented their startups (except two bonuses #19 and #20) at the Millennial Breakfast.
1. Stephanie Lampkin – Blendoor
Stephanie Lampkin is a TEDx speaker and founder & CEO of Blendoor, a recruiting application that reduces unconscious bias in hiring. With a 14-year professional career in tech, she is all too familiar with the difficulties faced when one doesn’t look like the typical software engineer. Through technology and data, her mission is to reduce bias and challenge the assumption that homogeneous environments are a meritocracy. Stephanie holds a BS in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from MIT Sloan.
2. Harold Hughes – Bandwagon
Harold is the founder & CEO of Bandwagon, an online marketplace and fan community designed to improve the game day experience for sports fans everywhere. As a leader in the growing startup community in Greenville, South Carolina, he is the co-managing Director of Collective: a coworking space for small teams and entrepreneurs. He is also Director of the Founder Institute-Greenville chapter, a member of NEXT, and involved in the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. He recently participated in the Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange Program in Durham, NC. Continue reading “TECH: 20 Millennial Innovators of Color You Should Know”→
On Thursday, Google announced a new program partnered with Howard University in an effort to recruit more young minds from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Howard has opened a campus at the Googleplex, called Howard West, “a physical space on campus where Howard students and Googlers can grow together,” and hopefully will encourage diversity in a field that sorely needs it.
In a press release, Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick said:
Howard West will produce hundreds of industry-ready Black computer science graduates, future leaders with the power to transform the global technology space into a stronger, more accurate reflection of the world around us. We envisioned this program with bold outcomes in mind — to advance a strategy that leverages Howard’s high quality faculty and Google’s expertise, while also rallying the tech industry and other thought leaders around the importance of diversity in business and the communities they serve.
The move comes as Google and other tech industry giants are still working to find ways to bring diversity to Silicon Valley in an industry where diversity in hiring has not been the norm. Bonita Stewart, Google’s Vice President of Global Partnerships says “students can expect an immersive academic and cultural experience at one of the most iconic companies in the world. Academically, they’ll acquire the skills necessary to excel on real-world projects, taught by the engineers who work on Google products and services every day.
The Howard graduate added, “Culturally, they’ll have a chance to experience daily life in Silicon Valley. On the flip side, we cannot wait to learn from our Howard West students and are excited to see the fresh creativity and innovation they bring to the table.”
Google hopes to expand the program to other HBCUs.
For the latest edition of Wired magazine, Serena Williams is doing more than just gracing the cover.
The tennis superstar is also serving as a guest editor in a special issue designed to look specifically at the issues of equality and diversity across a range of different communities and backgrounds. From science fiction to sports and from science to Hollywood, many different voices have joined together to tell their stories.
In her editorial, Williams talked about a multitude of ways that we can help fight for equality for ourselves and each other. She mentioned educational programs like Black Girls Code, and also noted the simple need to stand up for people who are being harassed (for example, she specifically mentioned the moment famed author J.K. Rowling stood up for and inspired her.)
She also called for more opportunity for people of every background:
Equality is important. In the NFL, they have something called the Rooney rule. It says that teams have to interview minority candidates for senior jobs. It’s a rule that companies in Silicon Valley are starting to follow too, and that’s great. But we need to see more women and people of different colors and nationalities in tech. That’s the reason I wanted to do this issue with WIRED—I’m a black woman, and I am in a sport that wasn’t really meant for black people. And while tennis isn’t really about the future, Silicon Valley sure is. I want young people to look at the trailblazers we’ve assembled below and be inspired. I hope they eventually become trailblazers themselves. Together we can change the future.
You can check out Williams’ full editorial here, and you should definitely go out and get the November issue for more amazing stories like hers, and to support black women having a much larger place in all technological fields and industries.
SAN FRANCISCO — Makinde Adeagbo knows how isolating it can be to live and work in Silicon Valley as an African American. He says it’s even more isolating to be a software engineer here.
Adeagbo, who is an engineer at the San Francisco company Pinterest, says he can go weeks without spotting another black engineer in America’s tech hub. “It’s not only that you are the only black person in the room or in the company, often times you are the only black person you see in Palo Alto or Menlo Park,” says Adeagbo, 30.
About 1% of engineers at Facebook and Google are African American. The population of Palo Alto, Calif. is 2% African American, Menlo Park, Calif., is under 5%.
Over the summer Adeagbo founded /dev/color, a nonprofit group for African-American engineers that officially launched on Wednesday. The group brings together engineers from top companies such as Facebook, Uber and Airbnb to provide support and a voice to African Americans and give them the opportunity to raise up the next generation, Adeagbo says.
Adeagbo says he hit on the idea while volunteering as a mentor to a couple of computer science students.
“These students knew they had someone who had their backs, whom they could look up to and reach out to when they needed help. I thought to myself: Every black software engineer could accomplish a lot if they had someone like this,” says Adeagbo. .
The name /dev/color is a reference to a common directory on computer systems “as well as our efforts to strengthen the community of Black software engineers, engineers of color,” he says.
Adeagbo’s /dev/color is joining Black Girls Code, Code 2040 and the Hidden Genius Project, a new and growing wave of enterprising organizations founded by African Americans aimed at addressing the scarcity of African Americans in the tech industry.
“Other black software engineers need to provide this for the black engineers coming behind them,” says Adeagbo, who is splitting his time between /dev/color and Pinterest. “We all need to work together to pull ourselves up and make sure we are accomplishing all that we can.”
The challenge is daunting: A fraction of the tech work force in Silicon Valley is African American and little progress has been made to address the problem. Only 1% of venture-capital-backed start-ups are led by African-Americans and less than 1% of general partners at major venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, the ones that back tomorrow’s Facebooks and Googles, are African American.
Kunbi Tinuoye, former broadcast journalist and correspondent for the BBC, MSNBC and TheGrio.com, and current on-air contributor to Arise News’ business show Xchange, has recently launched UrbanGeekz.com, a groundbreaking digital news platform dedicated to African-Americans and other underrepresented minorities in technology, science and business. The site offers reviews, interviews, commentary, and original video on startups, geek gadgets, social media, scientific advancements, entrepreneurship and insight into Silicon Valley and the global technology industry. The cutting-edge online publication also provides authoritative lifestyle and entertainment content.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, UrbanGeekz.com, live only since February 9th of this year, has already partnered with telecom giant AT&T and Black Enterprise Magazine to provide content to and about the underserved communities in the tech space. The website also has created a much-needed outlet for dialogue on the most pressing and relevant issues in STEM-related fields: conversations surrounding the preparedness of students to pursue STEM careers, the lack of diversity in the STEM workforce and challenges facing minorities in the tech start-up scene.
Tinuoye, whose parents immigrated to the United Kingdom from Nigeria, was born, raised and educated in London. She graduated from Cambridge University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social and Political Sciences and later received a post-graduate diploma in print journalism. She is also an NCTJ qualified UK professional journalist.
Tinuoye began her career writing for the prestigious London newspaper, the Evening Standard. After stints there and with the BBC, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Atlanta and working for TheGrio.com and MSNBC as a journalist and on-air contributor.
Good Black News recently caught up with Tinuoye and got a chance to talk to this ambitious and intelligent entrepreneur about her journey, why she started UrbanGeekz, and her visions for African-Americans in tech in the near future:
Good Black News: What initially attracted you to journalism?
Kunbi Tinuoye: I’m a communicator – that’s just the core of my personality – I’m a people person. I’ve worked across most platforms, from television to print journalism. I enjoy every aspect of the media industry.
Which aspect of journalism do you like the most?
I started as a writer. Knowing how to write and tell a story is really the core. I say to aspiring journalists, “Make sure you learn how to write,” because once you can put together a well-crafted sentence and get to the crux of a story, then you’ve the ability to be a good journalist.
What made you decide to leave the United Kingdom for the United States?
Me and my husband came on holiday to Atlanta about seven years ago and we basically fell in love with the States. One of my husband’s friends relocated here and was living a comfortable life. Seeing how black professionals live in America, particularly in Atlanta, where you have the ability to work your way up the corporate ladder… I think it was that, the lifestyle and I thought there would be more opportunities for me here.
Do you prefer it here in America?
I absolutely love Atlanta. I feel like I found home. It feels like where I’m meant to be.
Do you have a different perspective on black issues in America being from a different country?
I probably do have a different perspective. For me, coming as an immigrant I feel that, and maybe specifically to Atlanta, which I think is a great place for black professionals, for me there seems to be a phenomenal amount of opportunity, but that’s from my perspective. I know race is a huge issue in America, I’m very aware of that – in London there’s racism as well – maybe at a slightly different level, but of course I’m aware of injustice and all of the issues going on, but at the same time I see America as the land of opportunity – that’s my perspective.
Your experience has spanned three countries – Nigeria through your parents, England and the United States. How do you identify?
K: What can I say… being Nigerian is very important to me, so I would identify as a British Nigerian. I’ve been in the States four years, and now it’s like home.
Why did you start UrbanGeekz?
I was at the Grio for close to four years and it was a phenomenal job. But I felt there was a gap in the market. There wasn’t a minority-led news platform tackling issues related to STEM and the technology industry, which as you know is an important space that’s going to become even more significant in the coming years. The other reason that sparked me to launch UrbanGeekz was when the big tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, released their diversity stats and showed dismal numbers of African-Americans and women. I think that and the combination of just thinking we’re not covering these stories was the impetus.
Who do you consider your competition in the digital tech space?
I’ve got a huge vision for UrbanGeekz. I want the platform to compete with the big players like TechCrunch and the African-American and even the Latino digital news outlets as well. They aren’t my competition now because we’ve just started, but I hope to be at the same level further down the line.
What do you see as the near future for blacks and people of color in tech and science?
There’s been so much conversation about this right now. It’s a hot topic. Some of the big firms, including Intel and Apple,have made major announcements within the last year, [earmarking] money for underserved minorities and women. So I feel and I hope that people of color – and I say “people of color” because UrbanGeekz is a multi-cultural website – African-Americans of course, but I do want to include Latino market at some point and even Africans and Afro-Latinos as well – my hope is that particularly with the current discussion, people of color will become more and more involved in STEM and the tech space. Technology is important and when you look at the high-demand jobs of the future, many require STEM or tech skills. Underserved minorities and women need to have this skill set to level the playing field.
Are East Indians and Asians thought of as “people of color” in tech?
They are doing much better in tech. UrbanGeekz is for underrepresented communities in the technology industry.
Do you think there is enough awareness around disparity in the tech industry?
Before those diversity statistics were publicly released there wasn’t too much focus on the giant tech companies. But people like Reverend Jesse Jackson have been vocal and continued to put the spotlight on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. Now the issue is a hot topic. It’s also about what kind of skills and jobs that will be in demand in the future. STEM skills are vital for career progression and the continued growth of the U.S. economy. These companies are the new Fortune 500 companies, the new GM [General Motors] or U.S. Steel.
Further down the line, Tinuoye and UrbanGeekz will be launching the UrbanGeekz 100, an annual list of underrepresented minorities making strides in science and technology. The handpicked list will culminate with an on-site exclusive awards gala honoring these dynamic leaders and influencers of color who have achieved success in their prospective industries.
As a boy, 16-year-old Miles Johnson‘s father taught him about the power of compound interest: If he had money and put it away, it would grow so that one day he’d be able to buy something he really wanted. Steadily contributing to his savings account, he got a nice pair of headphones, a laptop for school and an idea — a mobile app that could help others from low-income backgrounds reach retirement and financial freedom.
His plan for the “Next Generation” mobile app took first place and won $1,000 at a business plan competition recently, part of the free Los Angeles BizCamp Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. The summer camp was created by the nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Los Angeles Urban League.
Johnson was one of 21 underserved high school students from across Los Angeles who met with teachers and business mentors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the two-week camp to find a problem in their communities and address it with a business solution.
Miles proposed a host of simple financial tools that help people, at the touch of a screen, check their budget daily, monitor their credit and access resources about getting out of debt.
“I thought this could help them and prevent them from being broke at 65 … or see how a car or house payment might fit in their budget,” said Miles, who now has a shot at competing on the national level for $25,000 with a free trip to Silicon Valley.
Adrian Griffin, his mother, described him as “completely self-motivated.”
“I can’t say whether I’m proud or embarrassed that I didn’t help at all,” said Griffin, who couldn’t attend the event because she was working. “I had a feeling that he was going to win, so that day I put my phone in my pocket, something I don’t usually do. I wanted to make sure he could get hold of me no matter what.”
At the event, the high schoolers studied concepts in finance, marketing and recognizing business opportunities. They put their knowledge into action by drafting plans for a music school for children with autism, a multicultural magazine to boost young women’s self-confidence, a healthy food truck for high school and college campuses, and more.
The competition gave students such as 16-year-old Mario Seki the chance to work on their own ideal careers. Moonlighting as a magician since the age of 6, Mario, now a student at the School of Arts and Enterprise in Pomona, said he hopes to expand his business, which already includes performing at birthday parties, and social and community events.
“Magic is a really nice form of medicine in a way. My mission is to make someone’s day better,” said Mario, who placed second at the BizCamp competition and won $750.
“I thought this is for him because he can really learn about running a business,” said Judy Seki of her son, the youngest of nine children. “Each one has a different interest and you just support them in any way you can. Part of that was finding this.”
Sisters Passion Lord, 15, and Dajah Blades, 14, saw their confidence skyrocket over the course of the camp as they developed presentation skills. On competition day they fearlessly shared slices of lemon pie and their vision for “P and D’s Sweet Treats” to promote peace through pastries from around the world. They placed third and won $300.
“Why not do something that brings everyone together?” Dajah said. “The secret ingredient is love,” Passion added.
“To see them light up and fill the room was phenomenal,” said Jessie Mosqueda, a community development officer for Citi, which sponsored the camp through its foundation’s commitment to spend $50 million over three years on programs for youths in low-income communities.
Romann Anderson, who will be a sophomore at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, won the BizCamp fast-pitch competition and $75. He impressed judges with his pitch for “Prism Gaming,” a compact video game console. “I was very proud that he was able to tap into the business aspect as well as the fun,” said Stacy Beverly, Romann’s mom.
It’s a lesson Romann said he hopes to take with him going forward. “If I go into business in something I’m passionate about, I won’t back down,” Romann said.
A 2013 NFTE research project found that alumni from their programs beat the national employment average of 69% — 88% of their participants are in the workforce. They’re also more likely to be self-employed: 22% of NFTE alumni have their own businesses, compared to the national average of 11%.
“It teaches them how to fish and build futures,” said Estelle Reyes, NFTE executive director.
With participants being tasked to deliver a 30-second elevator pitch and an eight-minute presentation by the program’s conclusion, BizCamp covered a curriculum that typically takes a full academic year, according to teacher Timothy Dura.
“It’s like taking someone, opening up their mouth, shoving in a fire hose and turning it on to see how much they absorb,” said Dura, who teaches at the Hawthorne Math and Science Academy. “They’ve done really, really well. I’m very proud of them.”