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Blog: Reflections of a WIT Network Lead

Reflections of a WIT Network Lead:

An African American Woman’s Perspective Inside the Technology Field

By: Madinah S. Ali, Co-Lead, The WIT Network Atlanta

If they do not give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.

– Shirley Chisolm, New York Congresswoman

I’m inspired to see so many African American women finally breaking down and busting through barriers. It’s somewhat hard to believe, and yet wonderful to behold, that the first woman ever elected as Vice-President of the United States is African American and Indian Asian. It was only 53 short years ago, in 1968, that Shirley Chisolm was the first African American woman elected to Congress, and the only woman in her freshman class. Many historians feel that Shirley Chisolm paved the way for Vice-President Kamal Devi Harris. Chisolm brought a folding chair to the table so that Vice-President Harris could one day stand at the Inaugural platform.

In December WIT Network Atlanta speaker Sabrina Lowery, who is helping our community with goal setting and envisioning, wrote me a nice thank you letter. In the letter she communicated how happy she was to see an African American woman in a leadership role when she attended our 2019 holiday luncheon. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal.

Being a Black Female Leader Became a Big Deal

Fast forward to 2020, and it became a big deal to be a Black female leader in the face of a global pandemic and two incidents of racial injustice in American. I’m referring, of course, to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. America suddenly had to reckon with a 400-year history of African Americans being in a country built on systemic racial injustice. Add to that the fact that African American women have had to deal with both racism, and sexism as they navigate an inequitable society.

This reality leads to a fundamental question: How is a woman of African descent in the U.S. supposed to rise to the upper echelons in Information Technology (IT) against those odds?  

I define the upper echelons as being an executive in corporate America, as sitting on a corporate board, as an entrepreneur running an IT company, or as leading a non-profit/government agency. In whatever capacity, the fact of the matter is that African American women only represent only 2.2% of all women working in IT. That percentage drops the higher up the ladder you climb.

Empowering Others

So, when African American women see me in a leadership role, it means something. It was important for me to realize that. I am powerful because I am a CEO, entrepreneur, WIT community leader, and Black woman and I am helping change that statistic. Being in a leadership role in The WIT Network gives me the opportunity to change that statistic.

I often think of a quotation from Barbara Hardy, who is The WIT Network Advisor on Diversity and Inclusion. She said, Go where you are celebrated. One way to do that is to join organizations that are going to enable your success. That is what The WIT Network has done for me, and several women of color not just in the U.S. but around the world in countries such as India, Columbia, Mexico, Nigeria, Haiti, South Africa, and Canada.

Let’s talk about the benefits, I am not sure if you can join too many organizations for $97.00 a year, and get the following program:

  • Monthly Webinars on career development, coaching, and mentorships
  • CloudPower, obtaining an IT certification
  • Athena Leadership development training
  • Authentic support from women who truly care about your success
  • Access to successful mentors such as national WIT Network board members 

Believe in yourself. Invest in yourself. Help me shatter that 2.2%.  Join The WIT Network HERE