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Black History Month (USA): 10 game changers that have revolutionized tech as we know it

26th February 2020
WORDPRESS

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We’re Celebrating Black History Month in the USA!

Inventions and innovations from the black community have helped shaped the tech world in more ways than one. However, it is no secret that the tech industry has an inclusivity problem – the black community in particular being highly underrepresented.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) : 83% of tech executives are white. In the USA, the black community only makes up 7% of the high-tech workforce, and just 3% of the Silicon Valley workforce (Fortune.com). There is still a long way to go before we see an equal playing field, but every small step is a step in the right direction.

We want to highlight 10 revolutionary individuals from the black community that have shaped the world of tech as we know it today.

Katherine Johnson
Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing.

Armstrong’s “one small step for man” wouldn’t have been possible without this woman. Katherine is an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics made the first and subsequent US spaceflights possible. This incredible woman has rightfully been recognized in the coming years, and even won the 2015 ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’. Very sadly Katherine Johnson passed away Monday 24th February 2020. We are so proud to be able to share part of her story today. All of our thoughts are with her friends and family during this difficult time.

Mark Dean
A lot of kids growing up today aren’t told that you can be whatever you want to be. There may be obstacles, but there are no limits.

Mark has had a lasting impact to the technology world, and affected how we work at Adstream today! Mark was the driving force behind the design of the IBM computer that later became necessary for desktop computers. Along with a colleague (Dennis Moeller), Mark helped to develop the interior hardware for all computers to connect to different models (e.g. printers, monitors, etc). Having these things at our disposal is second nature now thanks to Mark; we don’t know where we’d be without him.

Angelica Ross
“Having a skill makes you undeniable.”

Angelica runs the company ‘Trans Tech Social Enterprises’, a life changing program for the transgender or non-conforming community, to find jobs and prepare for their futures. Angelica is proud to fully embrace her transgendered self (rightfully so!) and offer a safe space that “gives people a place where there’s no question that they belong and are valuable”. Angelica, you are truly inspirational.

Gwendolyn Hunt
“The computer didn’t care that I was a woman or that I was black.

Gwendolyn was a Canadian who after her qualifying exam for a job, was interrogated by the examiners (not quite Slumdog Millionaire style) for scoring in the top 99% percentile. Turns out she was just a naturally gifted, master computer programmer! Gwendolyn devised specified coding languages and programs for the US Navy which still benefit us today.

John Henry Thompson
I’m an intensely competitive guy who is driven by the idea that accepting mediocrity or accepting defeat is not the way you succeed in life.

Thompson is a massive asset to Adstream today as he single handedly developed the popular scripting language that renders visuals for computer programs. This creation has later been used to create flash and shockwave programs essential for animation, web design and video games. Computer programs wouldn’t be what they are today without John Henry Thompson.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan
“I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”

A mathematics teacher who had to leave her position for a ‘temporary war job’, which resulted in a decade long career heading up the West Area Computing Unit at NASA. Without Dorothy, NASA never would have launched America’s first satellite into space. In fact, Katherine Johnson’s NASA orbital space missions would not have been possible without her.

Gladys West
“Always doing things just right, to set an example for other people who were coming behind me, especially women.”

In 1956, Gladys began working at the US Naval Weapons Laboratory. It was only recently in December 2018 when she was revealed and recognized as being the source of mathematical work that lead to the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). She has since been hailed in the Air Force Space & Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame.

George R. Carruthers
“I found out later that space could actually be a reality and not just science fiction.”

No one was surprised when George resulted in being a technology innovator and ultimate genius. When he was only 10 he created his own telescope for a school science fair (a lot more impressive than our papier-mâché volcano with baking powder). Later on in his life, George created a spectrograph device that ultimately helped with the first space missions in the early 70’s, recording radiation and ultraviolet rays from the Moon. This invention simultaneously produced hundreds of images of Earth’s outer atmosphere, comets and nebulas. George was pretty out of this world!

Shirley Jackson
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”

Shirley was the first black woman to graduate with a PHD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a theoretical physicist who has been credited to developing the technology for Caller ID. President Barack Obama selected Jackson to receive the National Medal of Science in 2015. She currently serves as the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Go Shirley!

Arlan Hamilton
“Investing in us—people of color, LGBT people, and women—is good business, good sense.”

Arlan has made history as ‘the only black, queer woman to have ever built a venture capital firm from scratch’. Arlan started the company back in 2015 while at the time being homeless. ‘Backstage Capital’ is a venture capital firm that actively invests in companies led by the underrepresented in our society; women, people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. Backstage Capital to this day has invested more than $7 million into these companies. Extraordinary!

The amount of black history in technology cannot be confined to one month, let alone all of black history outside of technology (especially in one blog post).

In a world so imbalanced with underrepresentation, it is hard to know how to have an impact. But the impact lies in keeping the history alive. Black history will never be forgotten, so long as we continue to shed light.

At Adstream, we believe that we should be celebrating their successes, triumphs and contributions all year round. As a company that leads the charge in digital technology, it is only right to highlight and acknowledge those who have helped us get to where we are at today.

Let us know how you are defying expectations and breaking down barriers, proving to the world you are #MoreThan

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