Some of Georgia’s best and brightest were recognized last week at this year’s Diversity Awards at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Now in its 7th year, the awards pay homage to game-changers whose achievements are changing the face of innovation in the state.
The event, presented by the TAG HR and Diversity society, recognized award recipients that hail from a variety of sectors. The nine winning categories include FinTech, Community, Health IT, and Digital Marketing.
The event began with opening remarks from Tony Cooper, Vice President of Communications for the Technology Association of Georgia, also known as TAG.
Speaking from the stage, Cooper talked about the qualities Georgia has that make it an ideal ecosystem for companies to survive and thrive. “Here in Georgia, we are fortunate to have what I call an organically grown inclusive ecosystem,” said Cooper. Organizations such as Technologists of Color, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, and digitalundivided, the latter being a Community Award winner.
Diversity and inclusion is a key driver of innovation in business, said Jacque Rushin, TAG HR and Diversity Chair, during her speech. Still, Rushin said diversity is not simply a black or white issue. “It’s about everything that human beings are made of.” TAG wants to leverage that, nurture it, and illustrate how diversity ties into the economic prowess of companies, she added.
The President and CEO of TAG, Larry K. Williams gave the welcome remarks before the presentation of the Awards. The diverse pool of winners “get to the bottom of how people interact with things every day,” he said during his speech. He added that Georgia is where technology meets the real world.
For TAG, that’s leading initiatives to give students access to tech skills through their campus program. Concurrently, TAG has also pushed for legislation in the state to make coding a foreign language. He also talked about the importance of letting kids know that STEM careers are not limited to engineering. “Some will go on to work for big companies and some will go on to start their own businesses and become entrepreneurs,” he said.
Later, Williams sat down for a candid fireside chat with the winner of the coveted Diversity Leadership Award, Lonnie George Johnson. During the event, TAG unveiled Johnson’s image on Hub magazine cover.
Johnson, a renowned inventor and engineer, shares the risk-taking quality that so many entrepreneurs embody. A graduate of Tuskegee with over 80 patents, he is most widely known as the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun. Johnson is also the CEO of Johnson Battery Technologies.
During their conversation, Johnson and Williams discussed where the technology of the future is going, how to get kids involved in technology, and by assessing Johnson’s own life and track history, the importance of not listening to people who discourage you from doing what you know you’re destined to do. Johnson’s life story is a testament to the words Rushin spoke and a sentiment that was greatly expressed throughout the event: pushing technology for change.
After the event TAG hosted a networking reception where UrbanGeekz had the chance to catch up with some of the honorees.
“This award reflects the impact a diverse village of mentorship and influence can have on a young man’s goal to generate wealth for his family,” said M. Cole Jones, Principal, RIISE Ventures, and recipient of the Entertainment Technology Award. “TAG was my introduction to the corporate technology landscape in Georgia in 2012. This award signals my responsibility to share the same opportunity and open doors for future Diversity Award honorees.”
“None of us do what we do for the honors, said Dana Barrett, said host/producer of Biz 1190-WAFS-AM, who received an award in Media Services. “We do it to move the needle towards equality. I believe awareness helps move the needle and that’s what the TAG Diversity Awards are all about. To be recognized among such an amazing group and to know that in some small way I’m contributing to a better world is truly humbling.”
“I am very honored to receive the TAG Diversity in Health IT award as a woman of color and to represent the changing landscape of Atlanta’s Tech ecosystem,” said Chrissa McFarlane, Founder and CEO of Patientory. “Over the coming months, we also have a lot of exciting developments. We’re current finalists in the 1776 and Medstar Institute for Innovation Patient to consumer challenge and Hello Tomorrow’s Top 500 deep-tech startups worldwide.”
“I think it’s fantastic,” Darlene Gillard, Chief Community Officer at digitalundivided. “TAG is such an important organization, and because we’re now based in Georgia, I think it’s awesome to be recognized. I think for anyone who was recognized today it’s a super special award just because of the importance of an organization like TAG. They have over 35,000 members, which is great. It’s selected by members and others, which means your work is being acknowledged. That’s important when you’re doing this kind of work, it’s not easy.”
Main Image: Photo Credit: Mia Jones-Walker
Check out the full list of honorees here.