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Black History Month: Spotlighting Black leaders in tech & marketing

Charlotte Elsey, Senior Resource Manager
Posted in: Brand, Culture, Innovation

As February marks Black History Month in the United States, it’s important to recognise and honour the contributions of Black individuals past and present. In the world of technology and marketing, Black leaders have played a key role in shaping innovations and breaking barriers though the years, and they continue to drive much needed change.

Black pioneers in tech include:

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was a pioneering mathematician at NASA, where her calculations were integral to the success of several space missions, including the Apollo 11 moon landing. Her determination and brilliance helped pave the way for other women and people of colour in STEM. Her remarkable story is explored in the book and motion picture “Hidden Figures”. In 2015, President Obama awarded Katherine the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Roy Clay Sr.

Known as the ‘Godfather of Silicon Valley’, Roy Clar Sr., was a visionary engineer who created computer software that changed the game, years before Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. He co-founded Hewlett-Packard’s computer division and founded Rod-L Electronics in the 1970’s, which was the first technology start-up in Silicon Valley. In 2003, he was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineer Council’s Hall of Fame.

Herman Chinery-Hesse

Herman Chinery-Hesse is the founder of SOFTtribe, the largest software company in Ghana and often referred to as the “Bill Gates of Ghana”. He is credited with inspiring a new generation of African tech leaders, helping drive both innovation and economic growth. His company’s clients have included Guinness, Unilever, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Ghana and Nestle.

Evelyn Boyd Granville

Evelyn Boyd Granville was a trailblazing mathematician who earned her Ph.D in mathematics from Yale University in 1949. This made her one of the first African American women to achieve this and the first to do so at Yale. Evelyn joined IBM in 1956 and where she conducted research in celestial mechanics and trajectory computation for the Mercury Project, which was NASA’s first human spaceflight program. Her work helped develop computer algorithms that are still used to this day.

A new generation of Black trailblazers:

Morgan DeBaun 

Morgan DeBaun is the founder and CEO of Blavity Inc, a digital community helping support Black creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. As part of Blavity, she has also established AfroTech, the largest tech conference for Black tech innovators. In 2018 she was named as one of Forbes’ America’s Top 50 Women in Tech, and she often acts as an advisor to leading global brands and companies.

Ime Archibong

Ime Archibong is a key figure in the industry as the VP of product management and head of Messenger product at Meta, where he is one of the highest-ranking Black executives. He began his career at IBM as a software engineer and is also listed inventor of more than 1,000 patents. Ime advocates for diversity both at Meta and the industry in general.

Arlan Hamilton

Arlan Hamilton is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to investing in underrepresented founders. She is considered a black pioneer because of her efforts to address the lack of diversity and representation in the world of venture capital and has been recognised as a trailblazer by Fast Company’s 2022 Queer 50 list. Since 2015, Backstage Capital has invested more than $20 million in 200 startup companies led by founders of colour, women, and/or members of the LGBTQ community.

Bozoma Saint John

Bozoma is a marketing powerhouse who has held roles such as Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix, as well as executive positions at Apple Music, Uber and PepsiCo. Bozoma has been inducted into both the American Marketing Association Hall of Fame and the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement. She has broken down barriers, amplifying diverse voices in the industry and inspiring the next generation of black women.

Black talent in the industry needs to be nurtured to help bridge the diversity and inclusion gap that currently exists. Some organisations helping to elevate black professionals in tech include:

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