I have been reading a lot this month and most recently inspired by the voices of powerful women CEOs like Aicha Evans of Zoox, Roz Brewer of Walgreens and Caroline Wanga of Essence… each representing a different part of the story of what Women and Black Women have to contribute to emerging technology, innovation, business and to change-making today.
During this Women’s History Month I am also inspired by the stories of women who paved the way.
My grandmother Rebecca Walker Wilson was born in 1921, the year women won the right to vote, and she had this fierce determination to have a career. She had seven children, still completed a college degree at Alcorn College, and became the first in her family to do so. This created an expectation and a legacy of college education in my family.
I was invited to speak at a luncheon hosted by the National Council of Negro Women, an organization founded by Mary McLeod Bethune. I am inspired by the obstacles that women like Mary McLeod Bethune faced, yet overpowered to lead significantly and change society.
Several facts about Mary McLeod Bethune.
- She was born in 1875 the daughter of slaves.
- She was born before women had the right to vote. She was 46 when women got the right to vote.
- She wanted to become a missionary but was denied the opportunity so she became an educator.
- When her marriage ended, she opened a boarding school as a source of income, which later became a college Bethune Cookman College (1929).
- During the time of the great depression, fifty percent of black people were out of work in 1932, and yet in 1935 MMB founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).
- In 1936, she became the highest-ranking Black person in the Federal Government as the Director of Negro Affairs.
- In 1944, she was appointed NAACP Vice President.
- She was the only woman of color at the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945.
- She co-founded a resort in Florida and Co-founded Central Life Insurance Company.
With twenty-eight percent of women represented in the STEM Workforce today, during this Women’s History Month, we know that we still have some ceilings to break and history to make.
With only four black women CEO’s in Fortune 500 Companies today, and according to a 2022 McKinsey report on Women in the Workplace, women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership: only 1 in 4 C-suite executives is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of color.
I still have hope about the future of women in executive leadership and women in the STEM Workforce. I recently attended the 2023 National Conference for the National Society of Black Engineers “I AM STEM” Conference. I saw 13,000 Black high school, college and professionals display confidence, brilliance, professionalism, and boldness. I saw inspiring representation by Black women, and I am encouraged about the future of Black women in the STEM workforce.
US Congress Member Shirley Chisholm famously said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” We have some work to do, however, organizations like NSBE, ITSMF, Npower, Per Scholas, HITEC, SIM Women, and BDPA are collectively and collaboratively doing our part to ensure that women have more than a seat at the proverbial table. We are working to ensure that women are leading the companies that are creating technology to make the table smarter and leading the companies ensuring that the people around the table are more diverse.
President and CEO, ITSMF
About Information Technology Senior Management Forum
Since 1996, Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) has been dedicated to increasing the representation of Black professionals at senior levels in technology to impact organizational innovation and growth. We do this by developing and nurturing these dynamic leaders through enrichment of the mind, body and soul. At its inception, only 3% of senior-level positions in the technology industry were held by Blacks. With a half-million new computer-related jobs expected by 2028, ITSMF is committed to increasing the number of qualified Black professionals for these positions. For more information about ITSMF, visit www.itsmfleaders.org.