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.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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