What do a traffic signal, a potato chip and a refrigerated vehicle have in common?
As we commemorate Black History Month, it's imperative to acknowledge the profound impact of Black leaders in automotive and technology. These contributions have not only shaped industries but have also enriched our culture and daily lives, paving the way for advancements in tech, EVs, and sustainable transportation.
Let’s shed some light on Black leaders in the automotive and tech industries!
John W. Thompson – Microsoft
From a young age, John W. Thompson harbored a deep curiosity and enjoyment of technology, a passion that would shape his monumental career. His journey led him to roles at IBM and, most notably, Microsoft.
A trailblazer in Silicon Valley, Thompson made early investments in tech companies and championed education, receiving numerous honorary doctorate degrees and contributing to initiatives like Teach For America.
Thompson's lifelong fascination with technology laid the foundation for his transformative impact, including his pivotal role in transitioning IBM from hardware to software and services during his tenure as its first Black CEO.
Thompson’s pioneering career has been instrumental in breaking down barriers and promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Ken Washington – Ford
Ken Washington's tenure as Chief Technology Officer at Ford was marked by significant advancements and strategic foresight. Washington's visionary leadership was evident in his early recognition that mobility would drastically evolve in the future, prompting Ford to adapt swiftly to these changes.
As Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering, he pushed Ford to rapidly transform its culture and processes in preparation for an electric future. His departure from Ford to join Amazon signifies his continued impact and influence in shaping the future of technology and transportation.
Angel Rich – The Wealth Factory and Black Tech Matters
Angel Rich's profound impact extends beyond financial literacy to address systemic disparities in the tech industry.
Recognizing the lack of diversity in tech compared to the wealth of talent within the Black community, Rich founded Black Tech Matters. This initiative bridges Black girls to opportunities in STEM fields and tech companies, thus fostering diversity and inclusion.
Through her pioneering work with The Wealth Factory and Black Tech Matters, Rich is not only transforming financial education but also creating pathways for underrepresented communities to thrive in the tech industry, ultimately driving innovation and empowering diverse voices.
Kimberly Bryant – Black Girls CODE
Kimberly Bryant's impact on the tech industry is significant through her creation of Black Girls CODE in 2011. By offering learning opportunities and events, Black Girls CODE not only equips girls with essential tech skills but also fosters confidence and creativity.
Through Bryant's leadership, the organization has been instrumental in amplifying the voices of Black women in the tech sector. Today, under the guidance of former Salesforce executive Cristina Jones, Black Girls CODE continues to lead the way in empowering Black girls and diversifying the tech industry.
Damon Lester – National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers
Damon Lester's unwavering commitment to shaping the automotive industry and increasing the number of black-owned dealerships persisted through numerous challenges, including economic downturns and minimal opportunities for minorities.
As President and CEO of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD), he tirelessly advocated for diversity and inclusion within the sector assisting nearly 300 minority entrepreneurs in becoming car dealers.
Despite obstacles, Lester's leadership and determination led him directly to Capitol Hill, which would introduce initiatives supporting minority entrepreneurs, fostering growth, and addressing systemic barriers.
Stacy Brown-Philpot – Taskrabbit
Stacy Brown-Philpot, recognized as one of the 46 Most Important Blacks in Technology, is the founder and managing partner at Cherryrock Capital, pioneering as the first Black woman-founded multi-hundred-million-dollar venture firm focused on Black and Latina founders.
As CEO of TaskRabbit, she served as a beacon of inspiration for Black women in the industry, navigating Silicon Valley as one of its few black women CEOs. Brown-Philpot's leadership in the gig economy was marked by her advocacy for double minority leaders, and her dedication extended to serving on the board of Black Girls CODE, furthering opportunities for underrepresented groups in technology.
Jasmine Crowe-Houston – Goodr
Jasmine Crowe-Houston, the founder and CEO of Goodr, exemplifies the transformative potential of technology in addressing societal challenges. Through Goodr's innovative food waste management platform, Crowe-Houston harnesses technology to streamline the redistribution of surplus food from businesses to those in need, effectively tackling both food waste and hunger. Her leadership underscores the intersection between technology and social impact, showcasing how tech-driven solutions can drive positive change
Celebrating Black History Month
Although this list is very, very far from an exhaustive one, the stories of these remarkable Black leaders in automotive and tech exemplify the power of diversity, innovation, and social impact.
From trailblazers like John Thompson, who shaped tech giants like Microsoft, to visionaries like Kimberly Bryant, who founded Black Girls CODE to empower the next generation of tech leaders, each individual has left a pivotal mark on these industries.
Their relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to inclusion have not only transformed industries but also paved the way for a more diverse and equitable future.