When James Damore sent his inaccurate and problematic memo on diversity in the workplace, the internet, tech experts, and the general world responded with justified frustration.

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images


The former Google software engineer wrote a 10-page anti-diversity memo in which he claimed the gender gap in tech is due to biological differences between men and women, rather than discrimination. And, while Damore did not directly ascribe to a political party, he compared being conservative today to being gay in the 1950s.

Damore's comments echoed what staffers of color and women in a variety of STEM-focused careers have heard repeatedly in predominantly white offices and schools: They don't belong here.

Still, they continue to prove naysayers wrong through their hard work, dedication, and brilliance.

Simply look at a tech conference, the launch of a millennial-focused website, or a new startup initiative to find women and people of color changing the face of tech in innovative and influential ways — in spite of working with and often being educated by people like Damore.

Here are seven badass people of color changing the game for minority groups in tech.

1. Tristan Walker, founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands, Inc. and CODE2040

Tristan Walker speaks at TechCrunch. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch.

Walker & Company Brands, Inc., is a grooming products company for African-Americans, and CODE2040 is an organization dedicated to providing tech pathways in the innovation economy for black and Latinx people. Through these ventures, Walker has used his business and tech savviness to create businesses and organizations by and for people of color.  

Walker often speaks at conferences to discuss the importance of teaching tech in schools and communities of color, and he advocates for increasing the number of women and people of color in tech.  

2. Ruzwana Bashir, founder and CEO of Peek.com

After graduating from Oxford and Harvard Business School, Ruzwana Bashir worked in investment banking before creating Peek, an online platform for vacation planning. The U.K. native of Pakistani descent has had profound influence in the tech industry, and she's used her voice to speak out against sexual assault and abuse.

Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

3. Khalia Braswell, UI/UX designer at Apple and founder of INTechCamp

According to a report from National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), black women only hold 3% of computing jobs. Khalia Braswell is one of the many faces in the competitive STEM field working to change this. The Apple UX designer founded INTech Camp in 2014, aiming to expose more girls of color to technology and to increase gender and racial representation in tech in future years.  

"Being future ready means building relationships, remaining positive, and giving back to those that helped you along the way," Braswell said in a speech for NAF (formerly the National Academy Foundation). Braswell maintains an active social media presence and continues to work with young girls in her nonprofit.

4. Elaine Warren, founder of SurvivorPlan

The innovative technology veteran has worked with business and health care clients, such as Emory University and Veterans Health Administration, for 20 years to provide software solutions for their initiatives.

"I loved the creativity along with the structure, and I realized that software development was both a science and an art form," Warren told Redox. "I went on to study computer science in college and was hooked."  

Warren earned her master's degree in computer science and is now the leader of Survivor Plan, a company that works to provide personalized solutions for cancer survivors, their clinicians, and their loved ones.

5. Evelyn Miralles, principal engineer and virtual reality innovator at NASA

Miralles is known as a a pioneer of virtual reality at NASA. Her career, spanning 25 years, has influenced women around the world. She is one of many Latina women who have paved the way for more opportunities for women and people of color in science and technology.  

Miralles was on the BBC World 100 Women list, CNET's Top 20 Latinos in Technology list, and is a distinguished alumna of University of Houston Clear Lake.    

6. Clennita Justice, senior engineering program manager at Google

Clennita Justice, a former Apple employee, has worked on a variety of projects at Google, including assisting with launching Google Play Books (formerly Google Books).

“I’m always doing something around my own personal development, and I’ve always thought of technology as a means for helping us be better people and have better lives, enjoy our lives, and increase our self-awareness,” Justice told Google Careers.  

Justice now works in product strategy to manage an in-product tool designed to complete surveys to asses user satisfaction. She is also a member of Black Googles Network (BGN), an organization that serves as a resources for Black "Googlers" and allies.

7. Morgan DeBaun, co-founder and CEO of Blavity

Morgan DeBaun at TechCrunch. Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch.

Morgan DeBaun is the co-founder and CEO of Blavity, a website dedicated to black millennials. The Forbes 30 Under 30 alumna saw a need for a content space created by black people, so she left her job and used her tech skills and business knowledge to create a website that constantly produces viral, relevant content for her audience.

She has also worked to create spaces for black people and women in tech, including AfroTech, the largest black tech conference in Silicon Valley.    

These seven are just a handful of examples of the numerous men and women of color innovating and changing the future of technology. It's imperative we continue creating opportunities for diversity in our elite school systems and the workplace.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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