Serial entrepreneur Kathryn Finney will deliver the keynote address at an inaugural conference highlighting women using STEM to facilitate social change and level the playing field.
Year of the Black Woman, which officially launches on Thursday 19 March, is a year-round series of online and in-person events focused on black and Latino wealth creation within the innovation economy.
The ticketed-event at Civic Hall, in the heart of New York City’s Silicon Alley, puts the spotlight on minority women taking advantage of technology to facilitate social good.
“I believe one of the measures of all businesses has to be the social impact or how they empower the communities in which they’re rooted, “ said Year of the Black Woman creator Mutale Nkonde.
“Civil tech refers to technologists, developers and entrepreneurs, who want their products to have a positive impact on society,” she adds. “When you get people who want to do good work, they’re the kind of people who’ll want to create opportunities for other people.”
Nkonde, a former political strategist who’s organizing the forum under her educational consultancy firm Nkonde & Associates, said she formulated the idea for the campaign series in late 2014 at a time when she’d been feeling economically vulnerable.
“I started to think what could a community organized around money and leveraging money look like,” said Nkonde, a New York-based Brit import and ex-BBC researcher. “After about five or six iterations, it turned into Year of the Black Woman.”
“Wealth in tech space isn’t created by working as a junior developer at a company, it’s created by either building your own company or being an early employee at a tech company,” said Finney, the founder of Digital Undivided. “So while the focus on coding is fine, it’s not going to move the needle unless a number of those who code create successful tech companies.”
Her incubator, Digital Undivided, has helped black women founders of tech-enabled companies raise over $10 million in capital since 2012. In fact, Finney has just launched a pioneering project called #ProjectDiane that’s collecting and utilizing data from black female founders of tech firms.
It’s essential for women and minorities to participate in new technologies and the innovation economy because technology is proven to be the great equalizer, said Finney. “Tech decreases the conventional barriers to success by emphasizing the idea and execution rather than the personality behind it.”
“There is no innovation without diversity,” adds Finney. “STEM is a field that is defined by innovation. Without people who can not only think outside the box but also rethink the box itself, the world in general will miss out on the exciting possibilities and potentials of technology in improving the way we live.”
“We just don’t want black and brown girls and women to fall behind,” said Calena Jamieson, Community Outreach Lead for the New York Chapter of Black Girls CODE, who is one of the speakers on Thursday “We want to make sure they can take advantage of opportunities in this field.”
“There’s the potential for their lives to change. STEM fields are potentially quite lucrative. For those who come from underrepresented communities, they can get potentially get great jobs.”
Others billed to speak at Thursday’s event are Christina Morillo, Information Security Expert, alongside Majella Mark, co-founder and CEO of Beau Exchange.
The Year of the Black Woman is committed to doing 12 in-person business development events across the country in 2015, said Nkonde. The next event is scheduled to take place at Harvard Business School on April 14, 2015. This will launch the leadership series, where Tonie Leatherberry, one of the most senior black women on Wall Street, will talk about leveraging relationships to foster leadership positions within corporate America.
New-York-based, Nkonde & Associates, aims to make STEM fields more inclusive by building a pipeline to careers in these fields.
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