The year 2020 has been anything but easy. Amidst a global pandemic, we have seen rampant racial and social injustice, spurring widespread protests across the United States. What may have once been a celebration of the country’s victory over the novel coronavirus has become a collective effort to drive change.
As noted by PTC President & CEO Jim Heppelmann, “The George Floyd tragedy is the latest in a long series of similar tragedies that demonstrate just how far we still have to go as a nation, and as a world, toward achieving equality.”
During this year’s LiveWorx event, Kimberly Bryant, Founder & CEO of Black Girls Code (BGC), spoke about finding possibility and opportunity during such great times of uncertainty. Despite the challenges we face as a nation, and as a world, Bryant shared stories of leaders rising up and taking action, exploring new ways of thinking and thriving against unimaginable odds.
Now, more than ever, we need the best, brightest, and most creative minds to help us imagine our future.
Let’s take a look at a few of the inspiring stories shared by Bryant during her celebrity keynote:
Founded in the Bay Area in 2011, Black Girls Code is a non-profit that has more than 15 chapters across the U.S. and in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company’s mission is to “change the face” of the technology industry by creating a robust pipeline of girls of color who will become the leaders and creators of tomorrow. The “magic” of Black Girls Code is creating safe spaces that are dominated by young black women who are mastering computer science and technology – helping them see themselves as tech leaders for the future.
Throughout the year, BGC holds in-person workshops and events, gathering girls from underrepresented communities together to learn about computer science and programming. By the first week of March, it had become clear that the company would need to create a new plan for 2020.
“We realized one thing very quickly,” said Bryant,” Black Girls Code could would need to go virtual.”
To start, BGC gave thoughtful consideration to what they knew they did exceptionally well: teach girls tech skills and support them with opportunities to enrich their self-confidence. They quickly transitioned all in-person events to virtual, launching their first-ever virtual learning series, Tech; Me, in April 2020.
Over time, BGC's virtual offerings have grown in frequency and variety. The challenge, however, was figuring out how to transform the company’s chapter-based model to one that transcended geography. How could BGC translate the specialness of an in-person workshop to a platform like Zoom?
“In retrospect, I began to wonder if the changes made during the pandemic were the changes we needed as an organization to scale our impact,” said Bryant. “We had a chance to broaden our reach and expand our communities globally.”
Realizing that their tech programs aren’t solely for pedological value, BGC focused on how students from all walks of life express themselves culturally. This is where the development of a confident mindset starts for young girls as they grow their technological skills and talent, Bryant noted.
As Black Girls Code continues to navigate today’s challenges and find opportunities to create a hopeful future, the organization is integrating relevant cultural practices into every programmatic design, ensuring diverse teams and diverse thinking. This is how BGC is building a movement that confronts the global tech industry’s urgent need for global diversity and inclusion.
In addition to detailing the ways Black Girls Code is proactively finding opportunity in these times of uncertainty, Bryant highlighted another organization effecting change on a broad scale.
Founded by Candice Elder in 2011, East Oakland Collective (EOC) is a member-based community organizing group dedicated to serving the community by working toward racial and economic equity. EOC uses an army of volunteers to catalyze efforts focused on providing economic empowerment, civic engagement and leadership, and homeless services and solutions, amplifying underserved communities from the ground up.
Prior to the pandemic, EOC’s most popular program was “Feed the Hood,” which distributed meals and hygiene kits across Oakland and Berkeley. All of that changed when COVID-19 erupted – and EOC quickly adapted.
Identifying an opportunity to build on the needs of an expanded community, with most local restaurants closed during the crisis, EOC pivoted from distributing meals every few days to the homeless to distributing meals almost daily to seniors, disabled residents, and low income families – in addition to the homeless population.
Now, EOC distributes more than 1,000 meals a week, up from 400 pre-COVID-19, showcasing the organization’s incredible strength, resiliency, and agility in the face of a crisis.
Bryant closed her keynote with a few remarks about Emmeline Pankhurst, a leading British women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote. A leader for the women’s suffrage movement in Great Britain, Pankhurst radically shifted the perception of women’s roles in society when she redirected work for equal voting rights to backing the WWI effort.
Pankhurst’s strategic savvy in the face of a crisis changed the narrative for women in modern society and begs the question: How can we all pivot to serve the needs of our communities? How can we look for and create hope and the kind of clear-headed thinking that we need to thrive during this challenging time?
For the tech industry, Bryant’s keynote emphasized the importance of diversifying the workforce so that our future is defined by a technology sector that serves everyone equitably. As she noted, “a digital transformation that isn’t accessible to everyone isn’t a transformation at all.”