Brigitte Daniel’s Got a Plan to Get Young Women of Color Into Technology
Like the Trayvon Martin story before it, what happened in Ferguson two weeks ago has had a continued news presence in part because of social media. In the moments that followed the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown, users took to Twitter to report on and discuss what happened. They have started and maintained a nationwide online conversation.
Much has been written about the democratizing power of Twitter and the influential power of so-called Black Twitter; according to a Pew study, 22 percent of African Americans who are online are on Twitter despite representing a dismal 2 percent of its workforce, as indicated by a diversity report released by Twitter last month.
This imbalance does not go unnoticed by those in the field.
“If we are the highest consumers [of these technologies], why aren’t we creating them?” asks Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president of Fort Washington-based Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc., a minority-owned, family-based cable operator serving the greater Philadelphia area for over 30 years.
Enter Mogulette, a program founded by Daniel (who is featured in this month’s Marie Claire), which focuses on educating, mentoring, and empowering young women of color between the ages of 20 and 25 who are interested in careers in entrepreneurism within the technology field. Beginning next spring, the program will begin with a quarterly speaker panel series highlighting local and national prominent women in tech who will share their journeys, challenges and advice.
Mogulette, like many other diversity-oriented initiatives in tech, is committed to bridging the digital divide, which often leaves people of color and low-income communities behind. Daniel distinguishes her initiative with a push for greater cultural competence in the field.
“It’s about providing opportunities for people to create innovation themselves,” she says, while emphasizing the need for greater social capital for young women of color who want to launch careers in technology.
“There are probably 10 million ideas right down the street in North Philadelphia. Those ideas need to be incubated and grown. I want to challenge the prototype of the tech entrepreneur being a young while male.”
Indeed, the juggernauts of Silicon Valley have been sheepish in disclosing their diversity numbers; with women comprising a worldwide average of 16 percent of tech jobs at Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter, and blacks and Latinos comprising a mere 6 percent combined in the U.S, according to a report in Bloomberg, the numbers are far from stellar.
Wilco Electronics found its niche in providing affordable technologies to areas often overlooked by the high-gloss world of tech. The company is the primary cable and Internet provider for the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Access, says Daniel, is not only about the technology itself, but job creation.
“My father [Wilco Electronics founder Will Daniel] made a commitment to both serve the community and hire the community,” Daniel says. “The jack on the wall is about so much more than just cable.”
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