Before launching BlackandMarriedWithKids.com in December 2007, there were two conversations that I had that gave me massive insight into the blogging world and whether my concept for a site based on promoting black marriage would be viable or not. One of those conversations was with the woman you see pictured above Angela Benton (@abenton on Twitter). Since that time we’ve become good friends and Angela and her team at BlackWeb 2.0 have supported us in multiple aspects as we’ve grown into the site that you see today.
She may look familiar to you because Angela was featured on the newest release of CNN’s Black in America franchise which aired last weekend. Along with tech guru Wayne Sutton she’s created a program called the NewME Accelerator which is positioned to literally change the face of Silicon Valley. The NewME Acclerator is a residential technology start-up incubator for minority and women led businesses in the technology industry. The first cycle is the group that is featured in the CNN special.
Besides being a great friend and supporter of the site, Angela is a dynamo in the tech field. She’s been named one of Fast Company Magazine’s Most Influential Women in Technology for 2010 and one of Ebony Magazine’s Power 150, representing 1 of 3 African-Americans in the technology industry alongside David Drummond (Google). She is also the youngest Hall of Fame inductee at Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and a recent Woman of Power honoree by the National Urban League. Angela took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her start in tech and gave us a few ideas on how we can point our daughters into that direction as well.
BMWK: You’ve been a trailblazer on the web when it comes to celebrating the African American voice and perspective in technology. Where did your initial interest in tech come from?
AB: My initial interest in tech actually came through my work in graphic design. I was doing print layout for magazines and eventually taught myself how to code (front-end). This was during a time in the early millennium when a lot of designers didn’t know how to code their own work. As such I ended up getting several jobs in the dot com space and even tried my hand at some back-end development. I realized though that was not my strong suite so I ended up staying on the front-end side eventually moving up to digital strategy and then launching my own endeavors.
BMWK: There’s definitely a lack of diversity when it comes to an African American presence in the creation of the technology that we use but even more so when we’re talking about being black and female. How can we begin to get our young daughters interested in technology at an early age?
AB: There is a great program that some of the NewME Founders were able to speak at over the summer called SMASH by the Level Playing Field Institute . It’s a program for high school students that come from a less privileged background. What surprised me though about this program was the class was I think about 50% girls. It was AWESOME! While this program is located in the Bay area I believe they will be expanding soon. There is also another program called BlackGirlsCode.com, it’s also based in the Bay area.
BMWK: Do you think that programs like your NewME Accelerator will not only influence minorities but more women as well to consider launching tech startups?
AB: I truly hope so! While this past cycle of NewME was largely African-American my goal was never to be exclusive to only that. NewME is for under-represented minorities in technology, so that includes Black but is also includes Latinos and women. As we grow I hope we make a positive impact on the technology industry and start to see an industry that looks more representative of the make up in the US.
BMWK: Are there any books, programs, organizations or other resources that you would recommend for parents who have young girls interested in technology?
AB: I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if I didn’t say BlackWeb20.com 🙂 What is actually funny is that my nephew is reading the site now, he’s 11! Someone who also talks the talk and walks the walk as it relates to kids STEM programs is Mario Armstrong he has several and a tour listed here: https://www.marioarmstrong.com/about/stem-programs-events/.
If you missed the original airing of CNN’s Black in America 4: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley you can catch the re-air this Saturday on CNN at 8 pm ET/PT. Trailer is below.