Celebrating Black History Month: A tribute to key influencers within the technology industry

In observance of Black History Month, Winslow Technology Group (WTG) wanted to contribute a special blog in memory, honor of, and in justice to the Black men and women who have made meaningful impacts in technology, inclusion, and the elimination of bias and discrimination.  In honoring these contributions, both past, and present, we ensure voices are not lost and battles fought were not done so in vain.

While we pay tribute to the memory of those in the past, honoring the past is also considering our future.  In that spirit, we would like to share awareness of a few key influencers showcasing their innovations and strides within the technology industry.

  • Lisa Gelobter is the founder and CEO of tEQuitable. She has worked in the White House with the United States Department of Education, for Black Entertainment Television Networks, and Hulu during its initial launch. She also made significant contributions to the modern-but-not-so-modern GIF by developing the animation used to produce GIF images. Read more about her at the Belfer Center.
  • Frank Greene Jr was born in 1938 and tirelessly worked as an investor, executive, engineer, and educator. During his time at Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1960s, Frank patented some of the fastest integrated circuits that made Fairchild a leader in the space..  Frank held a doctorate degree from Santa Clara University and taught both electrical engineering and computer science at several universities.  Read more about him at SCU.
  • Melba Roy Mouton graduated from Howard University with a master’s degree in mathematics and worked at NASA as an important leader and head programmer for several NASA missions in the 1960s. At that time, a “computer” was a human role.  She used programs to calculate aircraft operations (such as trajectory and location).  Learn about her and others here.
  • Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru published “Gender Shades”. In their research paper and project, they pick apart facial recognition AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm training.  Among other uses, facial recognition systems are used in the US for surveillance and law enforcement purposes.  The project sheds light on an important and ongoing dialogue about both skin color and gender, as it pertains to bias in technology.  They concluded: “We evaluate 3 commercial gender classification systems using our dataset and show that darker-skinned females are the most misclassified group (with error rates of up to 34.7%). The maximum error rate for lighter-skinned males is 0.8%. The substantial disparities in the accuracy of classifying darker females, lighter females, darker males, and lighter males in gender classification systems require urgent attention if commercial companies are to build genuinely fair, transparent, and accountable facial analysis algorithms”.  Read more about this project and the research paper here.
  • Ruha Benjamin, an author of two books and a professor of African American studies at Princeton, wrote a very thought-provoking book called “Race After Technology”. Similar to the “Gender Shades” project, Ruha explores programming, AI, and the intersection of capitalism and racism. She introduces the phrase “The New Jim Code” which talks about “The employment of new technologies that reflect and reproduce existing inequities but that are promoted and perceived as more objective or progressive than the discriminatory systems of a previous era.”  The book presents an eye-opening argument by stating the problem, providing examples, and discussing the future.  Read more here (as an added bonus, Melba Roy’s photo is featured on the site’s banner).

Our hope is this shortlist will help us all remember our past and appreciate our future. Many Black men and women have contributed to the modern tech we enjoy.  We have come a long way but also have a ways to go. It’s important to celebrate these contributions this month and every month.

Winslow Technology Group (WTG) has made the commitment and strategic priority to develop a culture of diversity, inclusion, and zero-tolerance for discrimination; we seek to identify and eliminate bias.  Winslow Technologies Group (WTG) actively pursues individuals and organizations who share and represent these important values.

 

 

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