How AnitaB.org Empowers Women to Make History in the Tech Industry
Photo Credit: AnitaB.org

How AnitaB.org Empowers Women to Make History in the Tech Industry

The nonprofit organization supports an inclusive tech environment through competitions, tech-based programs, and the annual Grace Hopper Celebration.

Women have been pioneering new frontiers in technology for decades. Examples of trailblazing women technologists include Katherine Johnson, a former NASA research mathematician, who helped the United States put a man on the moon. Dr. Patricia Bath was the first Black woman to complete a medical residency and have a medical device patented. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. Her expertise allowed her to join the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II to work on the Mark I computer and, after the war, the more advanced Mark II and Mark III computers. Grace also helped create the first compiler for computer languages and was the first female recipient of the National Medal of Technology in 1991. In 2016, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her many contributions to the field of computing.  

Women are continuing to redefine their roles in tech and are leading the way in bringing women of all backgrounds into the field. For example, BackStage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton, a Black, openly gay venture capitalist, vowed, in 2014, to invest in 100 companies led by underrepresented founders by 2020. It took two years of knocking on doors before she got her first investor. But, by 2018, her firm reached 100 companies. More than 60 percent of those companies are led by women and more than 40 percent are led by women of color. Having served as the third U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) from 2014 through 2017 in the Obama White House, Megan Smith helped the President and the Administration harness the power of technology, data, and innovation to advance the future of our Nation. Prior to that, she was Vice President at Google, first leading New Business Development and later as a Vice President on the leadership team, and CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community in the early days of the web.  She is currently the Founder and CEO of Shift7 which was created to execute effectively in both the technology sector and public service through their team’s unusual ‘bilingual’ experience. 

AnitaB.org — a nonprofit organization dedicated to reaching global 50/50 intersectional gender tech equity by 2025 — provides year-round research, training, mentoring, and peer support opportunities for underrepresented women as a part of their AnitaB.org/365 programming. Events and forums like Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), named in the Rear Admiral’s honor, global Hopperx1 events, and the Systers on-line community and affinity groups, provide opportunities for women of all levels to convene, connect, build networks, and foster a community of role models who inspire and support one another in their careers, building a foundation of empowerment from which women can feel confident to accept new challenges. 

Each year at GHC, AnitaB.org presents awards to women making notable impact in various ways in the tech industry and beyond. This year’s GHC keynote speakers at the October 1-4 event, included Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun, and Zoox CEO Aicha Evans. Yamilée Toussaint Beach, founder and CEO of STEM From Dance (SFD), was the winner of this year’s Educational Innovation Abie Award, presented by AnitaB.org in honor of A. Richard Newton. This award highlights educators for developing innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract female students to computing, engineering, and math in K-12 or undergraduate education. STEM From Dance started in 2012 and provides inspiration to girls in low-income communities through dance and gives students access to essential skill-building and college prep opportunities. Since its start, SFD has partnered with more than 25 schools and community centers, serving more than 400 girls. 

“There is something that dance sort of naturally does, where it creates an atmosphere that’s warm, that’s fun, that’s freeing,” Toussaint Beach said. “Those are the things that we need in our STEM classrooms. We need students to lower their fears and their concerns and get past their previous experiences.” 

As Toussaint Beach helps to create the next generation of female tech entrepreneurs, AnitaB.org is also elevating early-stage women-led startups through its PitcHER competition, also held during its annual Grace Hopper Celebration. The competition is designed to support women-led technology startups with the funding they need to take their business to the next level. This year’s contest featured 11 finalists, including BestFit CEO Asha Owens and On Second Thought CEO Maci Peterson Philitas. At the end of the competition, four companies, Rubitection, StrattyX, MD Ally, and Loro respectively from First Place through Audience Favorite, split $100,000 in prize money.  AnitaB.org also awarded the other seven finalist firms $5,000 each. 

As more women of all backgrounds dive into careers in tech and entrepreneurship, AnitaB.org wants to ensure that they are supported and the unique perspectives they bring to this male-dominated industry are elevated and valued. The people who imagine and design technology will reflect the people and societies for whom they build it, enhancing contributions to of the industry and changing the world through tech.

This piece is brought to you in partnership with AnitaB.org.