5 Black Tech Leaders Making a Difference

From HBCU outreach to strategic seed fund investing, these five luminaries are leading the way toward a more diverse, inclusive Silicon Valley.
Nov 25, 2020 2:35 PM ET

The tech industry has long been a beacon for change agents. But the disruptors, the innovators, and the inventors most lauded for their work are a reflection of the racial biases of our broader culture — that is, they are white, and usually men. 

In 2018 the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found Just 3.5% of engineers and other professionals in computer and electronics manufacturing are Black, and just 1.7% of tech executives are Black men and women, as compared to the 77% who were white men and women. And it’s not just the workers, but startups and founders receiving funding from banks and venture capital firms. Black investors make up less than 1% of venture capitalists, and only 1% of startup founders who receive venture funding are Black.

While HP and other companies have made very public commitments to act, there are Black leaders in tech doing pioneering work and leading the way. Here are just a few men and women who’ve inspired us. 

Christophe D. Mosby, associate general counsel and VP, HP

Now the chair of HP’s Global Legal Affairs Diversity and Inclusion Program and liaison to the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and the California Minority Counsel Program, Mosby entered the legal field to “help people solve problems and address wrongs.” He also sits on the board of Street Law, Inc., a nonprofit whose mission is to educate people about how law and government work.

Mosby helped HP commit to the Mansfield Rule, which measures whether legal departments have affirmatively considered a diverse field of applicants for top roles and for outside counsel representation. He has also spoken with dozens of other companies about how to implement successful diversity and inclusion programs, creating a “tool kit” to help them avoid pitfalls.

“Racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination are powerful institutions, but I am hopeful that people are starting to better recognize our shared humanity and interconnectivity.”

Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner, Backstage Capital

Before stepping into the venture capital sphere, Hamilton worked in live music production, managing concert tours. She invests in startups led by founders who identify as women, POC, or LGBTQ. The investment fund is dedicated to changing the way investors and founders interact by breaking down bias barriers and reminding founders of their own power. 

Having just celebrated its five-year anniversary, Backstage Capital has invested over $7 million in more than 130 companies led by underrepresented founders, says Hamilton. In her new book, It’s About Damn Time, she shares advice on “how to turn being underestimated into your greatest advantage.”

“When I started my fund, many investors didn’t believe I could make any money investing in underestimated founders. They thought — and some still think — that if you invest in a person of color, a woman, or someone LGBTQ, you must be doing charity work. We have to build that future we want to see, and the glory days are ahead of us.”