A not-so-great fact: Black women made up only 3 percent of the computing and mathematical workforce in 2019, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. But following racial and civil unrest across the country, some tech companies have vowed to take inclusion seriously.
This inclusion is important and can help Black women contribute to our society, in addition to pursuing economic and financial security. The technology sector continues to play a key role in the United States economy and workforce and capable Black women can accomplish great things.
As new employees enter the scene, and as we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s worth looking at these three Black women who’ve made their mark and encouraged others. See how they’ve used their voices and made an impact.
Tammarrian Rogers This 51-year-old has had a long career in tech. Originally from Seattle, she graduated from Tuskegee University in 1991 with a dual degree in electrical engineering and physics. Then, in 1994, she received her master’s in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Throughout her 30-year career, she’s worked at General Motors, Apple and Microsoft, and she recently became the first Black inclusion engineering director for camera company Snap Inc.
Rogers also cofounded Black Women in Stem 2.0 in 2018 to create a community that sought to advocate for an equitable and inclusive workplace. “Being a Black woman in tech, I feel fortunate to have been in the industry for as long as I have. I don’t see as many women choosing to stay because it can be challenging to navigate,” she told People of Color in Tech. “There have been times that I’ve found myself depressed, anxious and feeling undervalued. I decided to look at what I can do to shift my environment [or pull myself out].”
She’s shifted into her own lane with OPTYVA, a social purpose consultancy where she is the CTO. Rogers also serves on several boards, including Ada Developer’s Academy, a non-profit, tuition-free coding school for women and gender-diverse adults and Northwest Tech Equity Initiative (NWTEI), which seeks to increase education, training and career opportunities for underrepresented communities, women and girls.
Sandra K. Johnson, Ph.D.
As the first Black woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a concentration in computer engineering in 1988, Johnson has already broken barriers. She comes from a family of academics, including two electrical engineers, a microbiologist and a physicist, who she said, “Preached education for as long as I can remember.”
She told Inc. that she faced microaggressions and doubt about her abilities while in school. Now, at age 60 with 35 years in information technology, she still hears Black students’ stories of experiencing discrimination from professors and colleagues but believes entrepreneurship will even the playing field.
“There are so few seasoned Black women in tech,” she told Sisters From AARP. “Those who exist are awesome, have made significant contributions and have weathered a few storms. I think they are polished jewels that are sources of inspiration and should be treasured.”
Johnson also has created a payment app, geeRemit, with her fintech startup, Global Mobile Finance. She currently has more than 40 issued and pending patents and runs a crowdfunding campaign to allow North Carolina residents to become early investors.
She also has become an IBM fellow, a fellow with IEEE (the world’s largest professional technical organization), the editor in chief of Performance Tuning for Linux Servers and the author of several books, including Inspirational Nuggets: A Motivational, Inspirational Book of Quotes and Words of Inspiration. Johnson is also the founder and CEO of SKJ Visioneering, a technology consulting company.
Johnson encourages Black women to know who they are and be competent and confident in their abilities. “Do not let others’ opinions of you be who you are,” she said. “You are the captain of your ship, steer it in the direction you were born to travel.”
Shellye Archambeau’s first job was cleaning horse stables to pay for riding lessons. That motivation to reach her goals served her as she moved her way through the tech space. When she took over software company MetricStream, which she ran for 15 years, she became one of the first — and few — Black women to hold a leadership position in Silicon Valley. Since stepping down in 2018, Archambeau has been serving on the boards of Verizon, Nordstrom, Okta (an identity and access management company) and Roper Technologies (a technology company that creates engineered products and solutions for global markets), helping to navigate their responses to both the pandemic and racial tensions.
The 58-year-old has been recognized for her work through awards and speaking engagements. She also recently published a memoir and guide for women navigating corporate America titled, Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers and Create Success on Your Own Terms. “[Women can] apologize to smooth feathers, to bring attention, to show empathy. And we need to stop doing it,” she said in a 2020 interview with Fortune. “Everybody should be ambitious, and you don’t have to apologize for it.”
After 30 years in the industry, Archambeau has said she’s cautiously optimistic that the change spurred on by the racial justice protests in 2020 will stick. “It took us hundreds of years to get to this point. Hopefully, it will not take us hundreds of years to get out of it, but it’s going to take years,” she explained to Fortune.
She continues to speak on governance, risk and compliance, as well as marketing and entrepreneurship. Clearly there is much to do and much to say.