Throughout history, Black women have been trailblazers in the tech industry, despite facing societal challenges and inequities. Inventing groundbreaking products and pushing the boundaries of what is possible has evolved. In the 21st century, this legacy of innovation continues as Black women continue to make their mark.

To celebrate Black History Month we are highlighting Black women who are making a huge impact on today’s society. Keep reading to hear their stories…

Black Women Inventors: A Legacy Of Innovation before the 21st Century

The history of Black women in tech is filled with remarkable stories. It’s been chock full of innovation and ingenuity. It’s hard to imagine the world today without the contributions of these historically marginalized women, especially in an industry that has traditionally excluded them. Despite the lack of representation, equal access to education, financial barriers, unconscious bias, and other forms of systemic racism–Black women will continue to reclaim their power.

From the first Black woman to receive a patent, Sarah E. Goode, who invented a cabinet bed in 1885, to the first Black woman computer programmer, Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, who worked on NASA’s early space missions in the 1960s, Black women have always been innovators and inventors. 

It is important to note that the lack of representation of Black women in technology is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, Black women have been denied access to education and resources, which has limited their presence as a community in the tech industry. Yet, these facts haven’t altered the magnitude of inventions made by Black women to better the economic circumstances in underresourced communities and improve the overall quality of life for Black people.

Going back to the 1970s when Dr. Shirley Jackson graduated from MIT, being the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from the highly ranked institution. Dr. Jackson’s invention of fiber-optic cables aided in the development of numerous inventions, including the portable fax, the touch-tone phone, the solar cell, caller ID, and call-waiting technologies. Some would say the life of the honorable Dr. Jackson helped Apple become the big tech giant that they are today. 

Technology evolves through time and without the planted seeds of innovation from Black women educators, changemakers, and leaders–how would new branches of invention grow?

Another remarkable inventor was Marie Van Brittan Brown, who in 1966 patented the first home security system. Her system consisted of peepholes, a camera, and a two-way microphone, which revolutionized the way people secure their homes and paved the way for modern home security systems. 

The legacy of Black women inventors has profoundly impacted Black women in tech today. Their pioneering work and determination have paved the way for future generations of Black women to pursue careers in technology and make their own contributions to society. Today, Black women are making their mark in the tech industry by starting their own companies and creating new products and services that are changing the world.

These Black Women Inventors are Shifting the Narrative and Rewriting their Stories 

By developing new technologies and promoting greater representation and opportunity for Black women in the tech sector, today’s Black women of innovators are carrying on the torch.

Kimberly Bryant

One of the most notable Black women tech inventors in modern history is Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code. Bryant recognized the lack of diversity in the technology industry and founded Black Girls Code to provide young girls of color with the skills they need to pursue careers in technology. The organization has reached over 15,000 girls in the United States and South Africa, helping to increase the number of black women in technology.

How Kimberly Shifted The Timeline

Lisa Gelobter

Lisa Gelobter, the inventor of the technology behind Shockwave, an animation software that was widely used in the early days of the internet, is another influential woman making strides in technology. Gelobter is the first Black woman to hold a patent for internet technology and has since gone on to work at companies such as BET and Huffington Post, where she has been able to help shape the future of the internet.

How Lisa Shifted The Timeline

Angle Bush

Black people are subjected to biases in many facets of life, including AI. Some algorithms could be reinforcing biases based on who’s developing the product. Angle Bush is the Founder of Black Women in AI. An organization whose purpose is to empower Black women in the field of artificial intelligence through education, engagement, and embodiment.

How Angle Shifted The Timeline

Jewel Burks Solomon

Jewel Burks, the Founder of Partpic, is making waves in the tech industry. Partpic is an artificial intelligence software that utilizes image recognition technology to identify and purchase parts for industrial equipment. The company was acquired by Amazon in 2017, making Burks Solomon the first Black woman to lead an Amazon Web Services team.

How Jewel Shifted The Timeline

Dr. Danielle N. Lee 

A prominent Black woman inventor is Dr. Danielle N. Lee. Dr. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She is most recognized for her outreach initiatives aimed at boosting minority participation in STEM fields as well as her science blogging.

How Danielle Shifted The Timeline

These Black women inventors are not only making strides in their respective fields but also inspiring future generations of Black women to pursue careers in technology. They are proving that representation and diversity are crucial in the tech industry and that with the right resources and support, Black women can achieve great success.

Breaking Barriers and Making Herstory

These 21st-century inventors are breaking barriers and building on the ideas of those who came before them, all while making a significant impact on the industry and tech community as a whole, proving that representation and diversity are vital to the tech industry and that women can achieve great success in technology. Their contributions serve as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, and their legacies serve as an inspiration for future generations of Black women in technology. 

At General Assembly, we are building more equitable pathways to equip underserved communities that are often overlooked to break into tech and find careers they love.

If you’d like to join the ranks of these exceptional Black women we invite you to read our Land the Work you Love Ebook to learn more about what a career in tech might look like for you.