Pando

Kimberly Bryant on building Black Girls Code for her daughter’s generation

By Sarah Lacy , written on July 28, 2017

From The Equality Desk

If you weren’t one of the 10,000+ folks who watched Robert Scoble’s livestream of my keynote on Silicon Valley’s Morality Crash at Montreal’s Startupfest, the video was posted a few days ago and is embedded here.

Thanks so much to everyone who has been talking and Tweeting about it.  I know-- from my experience over the last six years-- that even a year ago this was not a message Silicon Valley wanted to hear.

But the keynote that you should really watch right now from StartupFest is Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, which she did with her daughter Kai. As a mother, I obsess about role modeling for both my daughter and my son, biting my lip when an accidental “princess” slips out. Given, I have an over-radicalized feminist four year old who leads her pre-school in anti-Trump chants and a son whose favorite camp so far this summer was Tutu School, I think I’m doing OK so far…

But I can’t imagine doing a keynote about something as important and as timely as black women in tech with my daughter. Jesus. Talk about role modeling.

Bryant studied electrical engineering in the 80s at Vanderbilt, and she talks about the disconnect between the girly expectations placed on her in the South and where her heart led her. The isolation was intense as a woman of color in tech, and she says it was only by her “grit and determination” that she made it. (Bryant and I are -- by the way-- both from Memphis, as is Kim Scott of Radical Candor. It’s basically a breeding ground of badass women.)

When her daughter went to a tech camp at Stanford and was -- surprise, surprise-- the only black girl, Bryant decided she needed to do more. For her daughter and all the other daughters out there. How awesome is that?

It reminds me of a conversation I had on my “Uterus is a feature” podcast with Jennifer Justice, now of festival producers Superfly, also Jay Z’s long time lawyer. She said like a lot of women, she’s not great at negotiating for herself. That’s almost unbelievable because if you listen to that podcast, it’s clear Justice is such a force of nature. But that’s the conditioning of a patriarchy-- we all fall into it at times. Justice added that while she may not always advocate for herself, she’s an amazing attorney who always goes to the mat for her clients. And her twins are basically her clients now. It’s just one way that motherhood focused her power and her career.

It’s fascinating that Bryant’s own experience wasn’t enough to create wide-scale change for women of color, but her daughter’s was.

I knew of Bryant’s accomplishments before this event, but I’d never met her. She promised to come on my podcast soon, but in the meantime, check out her keynote at StartupFest here.

The most important thing she said-- that has rung in my head since-- was about the power and importance of “embracing your moment.” That’s what the women of Silicon Valley have been doing all summer. As we reported last week, most people in the industry only believe lasting change will come if they continue.