Amazon’s Latest Grant Will Help Increase the Number of Women in Tech

Amazon is helping fund 24 women in the United Kingdom who are interested in tech. The company launched Amazon Amplify, a series of initiatives aimed at assisting underrepresented groups in entering the tech industry.

As part of the initiative, Amazon U.K. is also launching Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary, in celebration of International Women’s Day. The grant will fund 24 women, and each participant will receive £130,000 (about $170,000) a year to fund their startup.

“Diversity fosters greater innovation and helps raise the bar for customers, and having a diverse workforce is also just the right thing to do,” Fiona McDonnell, Director of Consumer Retail at Amazon, said in a statement. McDonnell also serves as chair of the cross-industry Women in Innovation Advisory Committee.

The U.K.’s tech industry has been on a steady climb. According to a report by Tech Nation, 25 percent of the world’s entrepreneurs say that they have two or more relationships in London. From 2014 to 2017, employment in the U.K.’s digital tech sector rose 13.2 percent; however, only 19 percent of workers are women.

Amazon Amplify’s greater goal is to increase the recruitment and retention of female Amazon employees. In addition to the Women in Innovation Bursary, Amazon is offering a degree-apprenticeship program, with public tours and workshops for children.

The NBA 2K League Just Drafted Its First Woman Gamer

Chiquita Evans is a pro now.

This week,  she became the first woman gamer ever drafted into NBA 2K’s esports league. She went to Warriors Gaming — the esports team associated with the Golden State Warriors — in the fourth round.

A former semi-pro basketball player, Evans was notified in January that she made the final round of the league’s tryout process and announced her next steps to fans on Twitter.

Women have historically been underrepresented in the gaming world. According to a 2018 Nielsen gaming report, 25 percent of esports fans are women, while Women in Games said that women make up 5 percent of all of the roles across the esports industry.

The NBA 2K League started in August 2018 and now has more than 20 teams in the league. First-round draft picks are expected to make $35,000 and other players have a base salary of $32,000. Players also receiving benefits and housing.

According to ESPN, a lack of gender diversity in the NBA 2K league was a big issue last year, that commissioner Adam Silver set out to fix calling it “a disappointment for us all so far.”

According to ESPN, Evans was one of two women who qualified for the draft. The other gamer, Brianna Novin, was not drafted, but could find a spot on a team in free agency.

 

Watch Evans’ big announcement below:

Report: Washington, D.C. is the Top City For Women in Tech

According to a report by SmartAsset, Washington, D.C. is the best city for women in tech. Surrounding cities including Baltimore and Arlington, V.A. also earned places on the list, taking the second and fifth spots.

SmartAsset looked at data for cities that have at least 200,000 residents, the percentage of women tech workers in those cities,  the average gender pay gaps,  and the averages in income after housing to determine which cities were the best.

Philadelphia and Houston were named the third and fourth best places for female tech workers.

Photo: SmartAsset

Washington, D.C. holds the top spot because of the number of women who work in the city’s tech scene and their relatively small gender pay gap. According to the report, women make up nearly 39 percent of the tech workforce in D.C. and are paid 95 percent of what men are.

Washington, D.C. and its surrounding cities have had steady growth in the tech industry. Amazon’s move to Crystal City in Arlington is expected to create more growth, but it is unknown how the company’s presence will impact the city’s gender pay gap. Women in Arlington get 87 percent of men’s pay although they are nearly one-third of the tech workforce in the city.

Other cities that made SmartAsset’s Top 15 are Durham, N.C., Detroit, Indianapolis, and Denver.

Opinion: Dear Tech Executives: Your Excuses On Diversity Are Getting Old

Let’s be clear: simply “hitting the numbers” on diversity does not equal authentic inclusion.

As a millennial Black woman who works in tech, I understand how it feels to be the “other”–both at work and in my day to day life. The old “excuse” that there aren’t enough candidates of color is no longer cutting it. For years, we’ve worked harder, smarter, and longer to secure a seat at the table.

We are here, ready and willing to take the industry by storm; if you’re smart, you’ll do what it takes to garner our expertise at your own companies. Aside from having rich life experiences, marginalized folks are often well-versed in how to navigate obstacles in a special way. We are innovative by nature and have a knack for problem-solving, both of out of necessity and by choice.

Full transparency here: I’m speaking from a place of slight privilege. I work for Mayvenn, one of the leading startups in the Bay Area. Mayvenn was founded with the intention of helping hairstylists grow their businesses and keep dollars in their communities. It leverages the power of technology, the allure of a lifestyle brand, and the hustle of the beauty industry. By selling Mayvenn’s products, beauty industry professionals are able to generate extra income, get access to education and marketing materials, and their own e-commerce websites, complete with tech support. Most importantly, there are never any out-of-pocket costs to the stylists.

This organization checks all of the desired boxes: rapid growth, big-name investors, and a brand presence that continues to expand. This company is different from your average Silicon Valley venture – it’s Black owned and a large number of employees here are people of color. Mayvenn’s Oakland-based team consists of about 46% women and almost half of them are Black.

As with most blessings, I didn’t realize how much this mattered to me. I was used to navigating meetings and shaking hands, code-switching when it made sense, and elevating the pitch of my “let me speak to your manager” voice when it mattered most. To come into an office where people not only looked and sounded like me, but were making the best moves? It was inexplicable.

It’s one thing to be seen in hallways or during an occasional break room chat, but to be truly heard—well, that’s still revolutionary. I’ve been a writer for years, but it wasn’t until I felt seen, listened to, and supported that I realized how much my voice mattered. The combination of our life’s experiences, innate grit, intellect, humor and work ethic, all matters. 

Recognizing the importance of employees of color means that you’re on the right side of history. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does begin with a single decision before it begets action. The time is now, whether you’re in the side hustle stages of a business or just finishing a $23 million series B round.

For your employees of color, inclusivity may include simple things, like a coworker finally understanding the implications of “wash day.” Or it may be more serious, like a manager understanding why the mood is more somber on days where yet another unarmed person of color is shot and killed by police.

Whether big or small, quietly minor or wholly obvious, this type of inclusion matters and it stands to make your company that much stronger and more competitive. As I said, I may be a bit biased. I’m a Black woman who finally knows first hand what authentic, intentional inclusion in the tech industry feels like. I can promise you that hearing Frankie Beverly & Maze during an in-house photo shoot is a whole entire vibe. Plus, I may or may not have been inspired to start a mini-electric slide on the way back to my desk.

/dev/color Is Bringing In Its Largest Cohort of Black Engineers Ever

Tech nonprofit /dev/color just announced the induction of the largest “Squad” of Black engineers into their community, growing its membership from 225 to 370. They have also unveiled plans to operate cohorts in two new cities this year.

/dev/color convenes a visible force of Black software engineers to uplift and empower one another within the overwhelmingly white tech industry. Nearly four years old, the organization began with just 11 members in San Francisco, and now has chapters in Atlanta, Seattle, and New York City.

Their flagship A* program offers professional engineers a year-long membership including monthly meetings with peer groups (called “Squads”), access to exclusive events, and tools to design an individualized career roadmap.

“It’s rare for folks to take retention into their own hands,” said Lajuanda Asemota, Interim Executive Director of /dev/color. “It’s not just learning and development opportunities that keep people at companies and in the industry. It’s also their sense of belonging and sense of confidence.”

The conversations around tech diversity often centers the acknowledgment that the industry is made up of nearly 8 percent Black workers and recruitment strategies (or lack thereof) have failed to address this gross underrepresentation, though numerous organizations are working to remedy these faults.

Changing the narrative around diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of /dev/color’s work to ensure these connections exist beyond this organization.

The nonprofit reports that as a result of its A* Program, over 70 percent of members received an increase in compensation in 2017. Of that, 34 percent received a salary increase of 15 percent or more. 

“We’re contributing to intergenerational wealth and community growth,” said Asemota. “Folks are able to achieve their goals and grow their careers.”

Black tech workers are the lowest paid in the tech sector, according to a 2018 report from Hired. Across the industry, Black employees are paid the least at $130,000, an average of $6,000 less than their white counterparts.

The Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found that Black women are asking for promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, but are not getting the same outcomes.

“The diversity in tech conversation has gotten a little bit repetitive,” said Asemota. “I’m really hopeful that people will capitalize on the history of the work, and really think critically about how to do things creatively that will actually have an impact.”

Techstars’ Startup Weekend in New York Will Focus On Diverse Talent

Accelerator program Techstars is bringing underrepresented tech talent together for a weekend of brainstorming and prototyping in New York City.

Techstars Startup Weekend is a 54-hour long event for participants of diverse backgrounds to form teams and pitch new business ideas to a panel of judges from the startup and VC industry.

Startup Weekend organizers are using the weekend to create a space for women and minority innovators to access resources in the startup world. Through targeting this underrepresented audience, Techstars hopes to address the gaps in funding and opportunity in tech.

“Once we bring everyone together and they get to work, we have no doubt that the outcome will be a display of capable and qualified entrepreneurs of all types– with ideas that can shape tomorrow,” they wrote on the event site.

Last month, the accelerator announced its partnership with digitalundivided—an entrepreneurship incubator for Black and Latinx women founders—to increase support for women entrepreneurs.

Digitalundivided’s groundbreaking ProjectDiane2018 report shows Black women-led startups have raised $289 million in venture capital funding since 2009, while Latinx-owned startups led by women raised a total of $1.36 billion in venture capital funding.

This accounts for .0006 percent and 0.32 percent of the $424.7 billion in total venture funding raised since 2009.

Startup Weekend will feature speakers like Jason Leder, Head of VC & Startup Partnerships at Google and Marcia Mitchell Partner Operations Manager at ff Venture Capital. Participants will also work alongside mentors to help develop ideas.

First place teams will have an opportunity to be interviewed for a series on Entrepreneur.com.

Get full event details and purchase a ticket to claim your spot.

CES Revokes Innovation Award For A Sex Tech, Women’s Health Startup

Lora DiCarlo, a women-focused sex-tech company, was supposed to receive an innovation award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), stripped the company of its award after determining that the company’s Osé robot did not fit into any of the award’s product categories.

Lora DiCarlo’s Osé is a hands-free, micro-robotic technology that mimics all of the sensations of a human mouth, tongue, and fingers. 

“The product referenced does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program,” Samantha Doherty, CTA spokeswoman said. “CES does not have a category for sex toys. CTA had communicated this position to Lora DiCarlo nearly two months ago and we have apologized to them for our mistake.”

The CTA also cited its rules stating, “Entries deemed by CTA in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified.”

Lora DiCarlo has also been prohibited from presenting on the floor of CES. In past conventions, robot sex dolls and virtual reality porn showcases have been acceptable enough to present at CES.

“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle,” Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, said in a post on the company’s website. “Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outrighted banned. You cannot pretend to be unbiased if you allow a sex robot for men but not a vagina-focused robotic massager for blended orgasm.”

Haddock called it “insulting and ridiculous” that her company’s biomimicry device was ineligible for the Robotics and Drone category.

Angela Benton’s NewME Accelerator Acquired by Lighthouse

NewME, the popular accelerator for entrepreneurs of color, today announced that it has been acquired by LightHouse–the parent company of the Cincinnati based Hillman Accelerator program. 

Entrepreneur Angela Benton, a mainstay in the tech world, founded NewMe in 2011 as one of the first online programs geared toward providing support for entrepreneurs of color. She created the program after seeing a lack of diversity in the tech industry and among underrepresented entrepreneurs  who’d received funding for their ideas.

NewMe launched in Silicon Valley and moved its headquarters to Miami in 2017. Since it’s launch, the program has helped secure over $40 million in venture funding for entrepreneurs of color.

Benton posted her excitement about the sale on Instagram:

Hillman Accelerator was launched in 2016 by HelloParent founder Candice Matthews-Brackeen, former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, and Ebow Vroom. It provides underrepresented founders with seed funding, partnership opportunities, and mentorship. 

“Lighthouse’s acquisition of NewME is a win across cultures,” said Matthews. “Our accelerator expansion will enable us to reach even more underrepresented founders and their transformative businesses, which offers even more opportunities to connect all people with the disruptive technologies that enhance and define the human experience.”

The original programming created by Benton will continue through the acquisition, and she’ll stay on as an advisor.

“Candice’s passion and commitment to not only continue the work that I’ve developed with NewME but also to the minority tech community at large is unique and doesn’t come often,’’ said Benton. “Her energy and vision are exciting and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish moving forward.”

The program offers one-week long accelerators and free online resources are also available for entrepreneurs as well. 

The next accelerator begins on January 28. Apply here.

This Tech Startup Wants To Make Sure People of Color See Themselves In Greeting Cards

Culture Greetings is making greeting cards more inclusive with diverse images and themes that speak to communities of color.

The online greeting card startup was founded by tech entrepreneur and business psychologist, Dr. Dionne Mahaffey, who saw a need to create culturally relevant greeting cards that can’t be found in stores.

“It’s important for us to be able to see ourselves in products,” Mahaffey said. “Something bearing an image of us with sayings that are specific to us as a people.”

Culture Greetings is innovating the slow and antiquated process of searching for the perfect card in the store and making it easier for people to create and send a greeting card to anyone in the U.S.

According to the American Greeting Card Association, the average American sends 25 to 30 cards each year, with the most popular being birthday cards.

The act of sending someone a greeting card is still meaningful, but now Culture Greetings is giving users the ability to customize cards catered to people of color in minutes.

“There are other automated greeting card services, but none that deliver cards that have a specific cultural nomenclature,” Mahaffey said.

The Atlanta-based company launched just in time for the holidays last month with over 700 greeting cards (and growing), mostly designed in-house by Mahaffey herself. The tech entrepreneur also works with award-winning cartoonists Quinn McGowan and artist Steve R. Allen whose work can be found in the National Museum of African American History.

“My goal was to design a culturally relevant greeting card platform that would become a leading destination for Black consumers. That’s the beauty of being able to code. We programmers can build whatever we dream,” said Mahaffey, who worked in tech for over two decades.

Users can choose from a wide variety of cards for different occasions, use the online tool to write a personalized handwritten note plus add a gift card. The custom built automation software then prints, stamps, and mails the card to be delivered the next day.

“It gives the same experience of someone receiving handwritten cards, but it takes the sender the same amount of time it takes to write a social media post,” she said.

The company plans to launch a series of Black history cards in February. The platform is also set to launch an iOS and Android app in 2019.

Mahaffey is the founder of several businesses including the WhereU app, a directory of Black-owned businesses.

Walker’s Legacy Awarded $400K Towards Supporting Women-Owned Businesses

Walker’s Legacy—a digital platform for underrepresented women entrepreneurs—was just awarded $400,000 by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to empower women leading businesses across the country.

The award is part of a roughly $1 million Global Minority Women’s Economic Empowerment grant dedicated to advancing diverse women-owned businesses. Another $400,000 was awarded to El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The organization will use the funding to create programming catered to women of color including entrepreneurship boot camps, an online accelerator, business and technical workshops, masterclasses and pitch competitions.

“Minority women are the fastest growing population of entrepreneurs. While many women are making tremendous strides in the business world, they still face obstacles as entrepreneurs,” said MBDA National Director Henry Childs, II in a press release.

Black and Latinx women are starting businesses at a faster rate than their white counterparts, according to census data. Minority women account for nearly half—44 percent—of all women-owned businesses.

Businesses owned by Latinx women are growing most rapidly demonstrating an 87 percent increase between 2007 and 2012, far outpacing the growth of the population in the United States.

“We are proud to continue to advance programming to support such a critical and vital economic community for our nation, multicultural women entrepreneurs,” said Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder and CEO of Walker’s Legacy in a statement. “Our partnership with the Minority Business Development Agency allows for us to continue, and more importantly expand this work.”

An estimated 5,824,300 women-of-color-owned businesses employ 2,230,600 people and generate $386.6 billion in revenue, according to the MBDA.

The agency reports women entrepreneurs reinvest about 90 percent of their earnings into their family and back into their communities.

Recipients are part of the new 2018 MBDA Broad Agency Announcement initiative, which is awarding $13 million to 35 projects focused on minority-owned business success.