Five black women playing leading roles in Baltimore startups and tech organizations gathered at Ida B’s Table this week to discuss their experiences, and how to create more access for a group that remains underrepresented in tech.
Organized by Sabrina Dépestre, the State of Black Women in Tech event set out to amplify the voices of women in tech and tech-adjacent roles. It was backed by a Baltimore Women in Tech Micro Grant and Conscious Venture Lab.
- Danyelle Ireland, Associate Director, Center for Women in Technology, UMBC
- Tammi Thomas, VP of Marketing, TEDCO
- Crystal Coache, Director of Talent and Operations, Allovue
- Charlotte James, Director of Outreach, Common Curriculum
- Jessica Sackey, Instructor at B-360 Baltimore
Here are a few takeaways from the discussion:
1. Representation matters.
As head of HR, Crystal Coache sees herself as Allovue’s gatekeeper. As an instructor with B-360, Jessica Sackey sees the inspiration students can take from learning about STEM education. Both talked about the power that comes from seeing people who look like them in leadership roles, and the impact it can make. During dissertation research, Danyelle Ireland talked about getting essay-length responses when asking black women in tech about their experiences. Now she works at a UMBC center to increase underrepresented groups in STEM fields. “Representation is so key,” Sackey said.
2. Focus outreach around access.
When it comes to the process of bringing new people into an organization, Coache talked about the importance of “granting access to people who had historically been locked out.” When Coache arrived, Allovue integrated that ideal into the hiring process. Making an effort to look outside normal networks is key, said Charlotte James. “If you do all your outreach the same way to the same networks to the same people, you’re going the same companies coming to you, you’re going to get the same new hires coming to you, you’re going to get the same students coming to you,” James said.
3. Baltimore’s network is growing.
It’s clear the younger generation is sparking change. Asked about highlights in the city, panelists named organizations working on education such as Code in the Schools and Dent Education. Ireland pointed to Baltimore Young Professionals as a place to link with the community. In moving to the area, Sackey was struck by the city’s civic-mindedness. “I’m really hopeful that Baltimore will be a center of innovating how we help our city, and how it helps people as people, and not just points in a database,” she said.