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Influential Women in Technology: Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly Bryant, women in technology

This week, we continue our blog series on influential women in technology with trailblazing entrepreneur Kimberly Bryant. As the founder of Black Girls CODE and Black Innovation Lab, Bryant has dedicated her career to bridging the racial and gender gap in the tech industry, empowering young girls of color to become leaders and innovators in STEM fields. 

Kimberly Bryant stands out as a beacon of change and an inspiration for Black entrepreneurs who face significant challenges in their careers. Black founders are consistently raising less than 2% of all venture capital in any given year, and 47% of Black business owners who apply for a loan are denied. Let’s look at the journey of this successful woman who has broken barriers and strives to make a difference in Black entrepreneurship. 

Early Life & Inspiration

Kimberly Bryant's journey began with a passion for technology ignited during her childhood. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, by a single mother amidst the Civil Rights Movement. During her time in school, she excelled in science and mathematics, and went on to  earn a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University in 1985. Bryant originally planned to become a civil engineer, but switched her major to electrical engineering after developing an interest in technologies such as the microchip, the personal computer, and the portable cellphone.

After earning her degree, she held jobs in a couple different electrical companies before switching to biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Throughout her work, she became acutely aware of the underrepresentation of women and minorities in tech. Determined to make a difference, she founded Black Girls CODE in 2011.

Black Girls CODE

Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls CODE following the beginning of her daughter’s interest in coding. Black Girls CODE is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide opportunities for girls of color to learn programming languages and develop tech skills in a supportive and nurturing environment. The organization has helped thousands of girls across the United States, equipping them with the tools and confidence to pursue careers in technology.

“Women in leadership, and Black women in particular, are seldom afforded the space to acknowledge and recover from their missteps. While we, as leaders, can grow from our errors and find the resilience to get back on course, there exists a pervasive expectation of perfection that disproportionately affects us. It’s a notion we must challenge because male leaders routinely receive second chances, and organizations often cushion their landings. This safety net is seldom extended to women in leadership roles, forcing us to fight tenaciously to reclaim our positions.”

Black Innovation Lab

Kimberly Bryant has recently founded an early startup accelerator to nurture founders in the U.S. South called the Black Innovation Lab (BIL) in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. BIL aims to cut checks for Black-founded companies addressing timely issues such as artificial intelligence, climate and healthcare.

“What I wanted to do as a part of the Black Innovation Lab is take all of the knowledge and networks I’ve acquired over the last almost 20 years in the heart and center of innovation back to my hometown to create a space to support founders that come from communities that look like me, and have had challenges, and to show what the pitfalls may be, so they do not repeat some of the mistakes that I made within my career as a leader.”

Expanding on her mission to support girls of color in computer science, Bryant continues to display her dedication to community empowerment through BIL. By rooting from the historic grounds of the former HBCU Griggs College in Memphis, BIL serves as an opportunity to bring substantial change to the place that helped shape her into who she is today. 

Impact & Recognition

Kimberly Bryant’s efforts and strong dedication have not gone unnoticed. In 2013, Bryant was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion. That same year, she was voted one of the 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology by Business Insider, awarded the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship, and named to The Root 100 and the Ebony Power 100 lists. In 2019, Bryant was one of 65 finalists across 13 categories to present their projects at the 22nd annual Interactive Innovation Awards presented by KPMG. She was also presented with the SXSW Interactive Festival Hall of Fame award.

Despite the progress made, Bryant remains committed to her mission of diversity and inclusion in tech. She continues to advocate for systemic change within the industry, urging companies to prioritize diversity in hiring and leadership roles.

Kimberly Bryant's story is a testament to the power of perseverance and passion in driving social change. As we celebrate her achievements, let us also be inspired to create a more inclusive and equitable tech industry for generations to come.

“You absolutely can be what you don’t see in the world because that is what innovators do. So, if you transfer innovators with trailblazers, that’s what trailblazers do — they see a need in the world, and they find a way to fill it. And I think that the need for each of us that are called trailblazers is unique.”



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