7 experts who are taking over tech and challenging racism and sexism in the field.

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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less