For years Black women have fought for a seat at the table in their respective industries. People of color are often excluded and neglected in the tech industry thus proving it difficult to find safe spaces to convene together. The disparity for Black women in tech has made it a struggle to level the playing field across the board, but these three founders created a platform to disrupt the lack of diversity in tech and empower Black women looking to grow billion-dollar enterprises.
Esosa Ighodaro, Lauren Washington, and Regina Gwynn all recognized the challenges that many Black women face trying to launch and maintain businesses when they first met. They then banded together to create Black Women Talk Tech (BWTT), an organization founded to connect Black women in the tech industry and provide them with the tools they need to be successful business owners. Established in 2017, the organization has grown to expand into 10 local chapters in cities across the country with one overseas in London.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Esosa Ighodaro, co-Founder of BWTT and Nexstar, about Black Women Talk Tech’s mission and the growing need for safe spaces for Black women to speak on the obstacles they face in the industry.
BWTT is laying the foundation for Black businesswomen to empower and teach one another about scaling their businesses amidst existing in a predominantly white and male-dominated tech space.
“Our mission is to help identify, support and encourage Black women to build the next billion-dollar business,” Ighodaro said.
While navigating through the tech space, she rarely saw any people of color, let alone Black women. Upon meeting Lauren and Regina, she described the encounter as spotting unicorns.
As a result of these rare findings, Ighodaro, Washington, and Gwynn started the Roadmap to Billions conference. Although it initially started as a small gathering for 30 women, the first conference received feedback from over 300 hopefuls.
“We realized there was an underserving of Black women being able to have a community of their own,” said Ighodaro.
She added that Black women needed a space to share ideas. She also emphasized that starting a business was just as important as sustaining and growing it.
Since the first conference proved to be such a success, they continued the series and saw attendance grow tremendously. They recently held their fourth annual Roadmap to Billions conference in February attracting well over 1,200 attendees.
“We realized that the timing is perfect,” said Ighodaro.
Black Women Talk Tech is doing the groundwork to build spaces for Black women in an industry that isn’t designed for us. Their efforts are a true testament to the will of the Black woman. The world doesn’t always get to see the magic of Black women and recognize what they bring to the table, but that’s where Black Women Talk Tech steps in. Ighodaro believes the greatest asset of this platform is the strong network of Black female professionals.
“No one knows what it is [like] to be a Black woman,” Ighodaro said. “Our best asset is each other. Supporting one another is the best way to build businesses. People don’t understand how [social] networks truly make a difference with companies and organizations.”
Friends funding friends is how many startups can see success and networking within this organization has benefited so many Black women.
Outside of the conference, Black Women Talk Tech has established other ways to reach Black women year-round. By holding monthly meetings through its chapters, the organization can better serve and connect women in local markets.
Together, Ighodaro, Washington, and Gwynn are working to change the structure of the tech industry to be more inclusive so more Black women are recognized.
“At the end of the end we’re hoping to build more billionaires that look like us.”