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The Young Black Women Making Waves In Technology

The Young Black Women Making Waves In Technology

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By Bianca Barratt
Forbes

When you consider that only 24% of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles in the UK are held by women, it shouldn’t come as surprise that the numbers are much lower when it comes to women of colour. The gender and race balance is off and it’s up to us to encourage more young girls and people of colour into STEM fields in the future, if we’re to ensure that the advancement of technology and scientific discovery is to truly reflect the world around us and the people in it.

In honour of Black History Month, I’m celebrating some of the young black women making waves in the field of technology – women building a more inclusive and forward-thinking industry – and sharing the advice they have to offer other young women looking to follow in their footsteps.

Abadesi Osunsade – Co-founder of Elpha

(Abadesi Osunsade, middle, stands with her fellow Elpha co-founders, Cadran Cowsanage and Kuan Luo)

As one of the founding members of Elpha – a private online community for women in tech – Abadesi Osunsade stands out as a member of one of the only female-led founding teams in the UK STEM industry (around 10%). Elpha offers a platform for women and non-binary individuals working in tech to discuss issues or questions they have relating to work and life in a safe environment. Abadesi helped to set up Elpha alongside Cadran Cowsanage and Kuan Luo after feeling like an outsider in her own workplace.

Bianca Barratt: What has been your experience as a black woman working in STEM?

Abadesi Osunsade:  As a black woman in tech I have often been aware of how few people I relate to in the office. That’s why communities like Elpha are so important. The Elpha community takes an  intersectional approach in everything we do, acknowledging that black women experience the tech industry differently to white and asian women. We support each other to overcome the invisible barriers to our success.

BB: What is your vision for the future of STEM?

AO: My vision for the future is a tech industry where every person – regardless of their identity or background – has the opportunity to excel in the workplace.

BB: Any advice you’d like to share with young black women looking to break into the industry?

AO: My advice to young black women is something we talk about on Elpha a lot: looking to enter the industry is to know that while school and university follow a very linear path our careers do not, and that’s OK . With every challenge we take, regardless of whether we’re successful, we learn something about ourselves and that brings us closer to finding the most fulfilling work. Learn to embrace failure because it’s in all my previous failures where I’ve truly grown as a person.

Find out more about the work that Abadesi is doing at Elpha here.

Kike Oniwinde – Founder of BYP

(Kike Oniwinde, founder of BYP)

Described as the ‘LinkedIn for black professionals’, BYP connects, supports and develops young black professionals right from their first foray into work experience to their senior management position years down the line. Founded by Kike Oniwinde – a 2018 Sky Women in Technology scholar – it aims to help build networks, new friendships and offer more opportunities. Since its inception, the app has continued to grow, now catering for 30,000 members across 10 countries. A former Great Britain javelin thrower, Kike was no stranger to challenge but felt that the racial imbalance still prevalent in the world of STEM needed to be redressed. Here’s what she had to say.

Bianca Barratt: What has been your experience as a black woman working in STEM?

Kike Oniwinde: I have been in the tech industry since summer 2016 when I joined a FinTech start-up firm. At the time I had work experience in investment banking but knew it wasn’t for me  – especially as it was inflexible to my athletics career. FinTech gave me the opportunity to be in both the finance and tech world and I entered it because it was what everyone was talking about. My experience there was really eye-opening. I worked on a implementation project with someone in the tech team, and it came so naturally. I also really admired the founder as I realised his educational background was no different from mine – so why can’t I do the same? I also realised that even in the start-up world black women were severely underrepresented – just like banking.

I had this real desire to help the black community on a global scale and I knew that technology can help make this a reality. I didn’t actually realise that there was a lack of diversity when it came to founders in technology. I just started by doing events and used the money to pay for my app development. One thing I’ve noticed is that we need more black women to enter the world of tech, either by becoming founders or joining start-ups. Barriers are there to be broken.

BB: What is your vision for the future of STEM?

KO: My vision for the future is for the black community to be fairly represented across all industries. Technology is the most important industry [for the future] and I want there to be drones of us entering and creating products and services that can change the world. To move beyond a limited mindset, dream big and be fuelled by ambition to see it through. I want it to be commonplace to see black founders receiving funding, scaling companies and exiting through selling or IPO’ing. I want black founders to become investors so that they can put money in to more black-owned companies. I want all of this to be a part of the vision to change the black narrative, so that our excellence is known as the norm and any other depiction of the black community that isn’t positive is seen as an outlier. My dreams are to continue to highlight and unlock the talent that exists within the community so that our visibility can inspire the younger generation to tap into their potential and know that they too can reach great heights.

BB: Any advice you’d like to share with young black women looking to break into the industry?

KO: There is absolutely nothing stopping you from entering the technology industry. It’s a choice. Decide to be a part of the creating the future. If you have access to a laptop/computer, use it to do some research on an idea you might have. Survey others to see if it’s of interest. Look at online resources and join free business/accelerator programmes. Go to technology or start-up specific events and network with those in the industry. You’ve got this.

Find out more about Kike’s work at BYP here.

Davinia Tomlinson – Founder of Rainchq App

(Davinia Tomlinson, founder of Rainchq)

With an impressive background in finance, FinTech entrepreneur Davinia Tomlinson is preparing to launch Rainchq –  a new finance app for women. She has worked throughout her career to promote inclusion and better financial guidance and support for women, bringing the app to smart women around the world and opening up the conversation about money.

Bianca Barratt: What has been your experience as a black woman working in the technology industry?

Davinia Tomlinson: When I started my career over a decade ago in an investment management industry, I was one of few women on my graduate scheme and the only black person. Historically the industry has not been renowned for its diversity but it has been encouraging to see greater focus on promoting inclusion in recent years.

BB: What is your vision for the future of the industry?

DT: My vision is to help close the gender investing gap, which sees men outpacing women when it comes to investing, and help women take control of their financial futures. This is about more than just levelling the playing field for its own sake but helping women take positive action to secure themselves financially and ultimately, fending off pensioner poverty which is a very real threat.

BB: Any advice you’d like to share with young black women looking to break into the industry?

DT: Don’t be afraid to be one of few – seize the opportunity to demonstrate your excellence and be your authentic selves while doing so. It’s your secret weapon.

Find out more about Rainchq here.

 

This article was written by Bianca Barratt from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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