February officially marks Black History Month, an opportunity to celebrate the incredible Black innovators, leaders, and influencers who shape the tech industry 365 days a year.
In our book, this month is a time to not only bring history into focus, but to take a closer look at the present and future of the Black community in STEM. It’s a time to make sure the names like Katherine Johnson, for instance, are as familiar as Neil Armstrong, and to work to create more opportunities for bright minds like her's in STEM.
There is a lot of work to be done across STEM fields in terms of access, equity, and representation. Prominent companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft report a snapshot of a diversity problem industry wide; they have made relatively little progress in increasing diversity since 2014 reports revealed overwhelmingly white or Asian male employees, especially in leadership positions.
Ten Inspiring Black Leaders in Tech
To increase diversity and inclusion in STEM, it’s important to amplify the perspectives and accomplishments of Black leaders in tech.
Their stories are powerful, and their legacies live not only in what they’ve created, but also in the paths paved for future leaders. So, without further ado, here are 10 Black innovators to watch at the cutting edge of technology!
Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO and Fortune 500 Board Director
“I am inspired by the opportunity to impact people’s lives every day all over the world, which is why as a leader, I believe my purpose is to make it easier for others to achieve their goals,” she writes on her LinkedIn profile.
In addition to serving on the board of directors for Nordstrom and HP, Stacy Brown-Philpot co-founded the SB Opportunity Fund, an organization that invests in Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs.
Andre Young aka Dr. Dre, Creator of “Beats by Dre”
Dr. Dre is nothing short of legendary for his creation of these signature headphones, which have become a worldwide phenomenon. By combining his musical expertise with cutting-edge technology, he created a product so popular that it led to the largest Apple acquisition of all time (a cool $2.6 billion dollars).
Jessica O. Matthews, Founder and CEO of Uncharted Power Inc.
Recognized by the Obama administration, Fortune, Forbes, Harvard, and more for her brilliant inventions and visionary leadership, Jessica O. Matthews founded Uncharted Power to “tackle a trillion dollar problem,” sustainable city infrastructure.
After creating SOCCKET, a power-generating soccer ball, she went on to found Uncharted Power, a company that provides critical services to underserved cities and communities. Jessica O. Matthews has 12 patents and patents pending and serves on the boards of multiple organizations dedicated to clean energy, women's empowerment, and STEM education.
Christopher Young, Executive Vice President Business Development at Microsoft
Christopher Young’s resume is as impressive as his impact in software development and cybersecurity over the course of nearly two decades.
In his time as CEO of McAfee, the company protected data for 80% of all Fortune 100 companies. Since moving on to Microsoft, Christopher Young also serves on the boards of Snap Inc. and American Express.
Delane Parnell, Founder and CEO of PlayVS
According to their website, “This is where amateur esports happens. However you play, whatever you play, we're the engine that powers your competition. We care deeply about two things: our platform and the community that makes it come alive. The platform is our focus. The community is our passion.”
Delane Parnell’s creation currently partners with 23 state high school leagues, and numerous colleges and universities, and offers additional youth organizations and events. PlayVS brings gamers together, a mission we at iD Tech can certainly get behind.
Melissa Hanna, Co-Founder and CEO of Mahmee
JD/MBA Melissa Hanna’s years of leadership experience and passion for womens’ healthcare culminated in Mahmee, an organization dedicated to supporting mothers and newborns from pregnancy through infants’ first birthday.
Her company connects moms with healthcare professionals in a personalized, seamless experience. As a platform, Mahmee delivers expertise and ongoing education support for families’ emotional and physical well-being.
Ime Archibong, Head of New Product Experimentation at Facebook
Ime got his start as a software engineer at IBM and worked his way up to be a major player at one of the most influential technology companies in the world. Especially in recent years, he has been vocal in his advocacy for increased diversity, company and industry-wide.
Phaedra Ellis- Lamkins, Founder of Promise
Her tech start-up, Promise, is a company with a purpose. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is passionate about criminal justice reform and modernizing government systems, “We at Promise are focused on ending mass incarceration and on decreasing the number of people in jails,” she said.
Promise streamlines the bail system and brings outdated state and federal systems into the 21st century. Through her work, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins drives solutions and improves outcomes for those exiting the criminal justice system.
Charley Moore, Founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer
Since its founding, Rocket Lawyer has served over 30 million individuals and 2 million businesses. Moore has been outspoken in his advocacy for more diversity across Silicon Valley and increased efforts to combat biases, stating in one interview, “We should build the pipeline of talented people of color, educated in science, engineering and the humanities while also removing the weight of bias - including unconscious bias - that slows down progress.”
Angela Benton, Founder and CEO of Streamlytics
By founding Streamlytics, Angela Benton created a unique opportunity for users to reclaim their data through revolutionary Universal Data Interchange Format technology.
Angela has been recognized among Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Fast Company’s Most Influential Women In Technology, and Business Insiders’ 25 Most Influential African-Americans in Technology. Since user data is more valuable than ever, it’s exciting to think about where her work with Streamlytics will lead!
Creating a more equitable future in tech
Each of these individual’s stories is inspirational and testament to extraordinary accomplishments and perseverance. They also provide hope that in the coming years, the list of Black tech executives, inventors, and leaders will become longer and longer!
While this snapshot is short and by no means comprehensive, there’s no question that the tech industry must become more diverse in order to be truly equitable.
Promoting diversity and inclusion is a daily top priority at iD Tech, starting with today's generation of innovators. Among other efforts, iD Tech is proud to partner with Black Student Fund, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities in STEM for students of color. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, iD Tech launched a donation-matching campaign to support their work.
For more on this and more diversity and inclusion efforts at iD Tech, check out our Social Impact Initiatives!