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Kimberly Bryant: Accomplished Electrical Engineer and Founder of Black Girls Code

This profile on Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer and founder of Black Girls Code, is the ninth post in a month-long series of profiles on Black STEM innovators in honor of Black History Month. Today’s post also celebrates Engineers’ Week, by focusing on Bryant. 

Kimberly Bryant shows no fear in the face of adversity. As a young girl, Bryant found herself interested and skilled in the fields of math and science, which were and still are dominated by white men1,2.  Despite often being the only woman or person of color (or both) in conversations dedicated to STEM fields, Bryant continued to follow her talents and passions through her education and into the workforce.  

On the Black Girls Code website, Bryant recalls “feeling culturally isolated” and goes on to say that “few of my classmates looked like me. While we shared similar aspirations and many good times, there’s much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background.3” 

After graduating from the prestigious Vanderbilt University with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in mathematics in 1989, Bryant was hired for many technical leadership roles in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries by Fortune 100 companies such as Genentech4

Tired of being one of few role models for other minority populations in STEM, including her own daughter who began to show an aptitude and passion for science and math, Bryant decided to start a company to normalize and promote the growing interest of girls of color in STEM fields5. In 2011, Bryant founded Black Girls Code to support young women on their road to success in science, technology, engineering, and math3

“By launching Black Girls Code, I hope[d] to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up,” Bryant wrote on the Black Girls Code website3. “That, really, is the Black Girls Code mission:  to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures. Imagine the impact that these curious, creative minds could have on the world with the guidance and encouragement others take for granted.3” 

Black Girls Code brings  girls in primary and secondary school lessons and training on how to code using popular languages through after-school and summer programs5. As of 2013, the non-profit organization has reportedly reached over 3,000 students, established 7 institutions, operated in nearly 10 U.S. states, and worked internationally with a community in Johannesburg, South Africa5

In addition to her work advocating for and training young girls, Bryant was also heralded for upholding the morals Black Girls Code was founded on after she refused a $125,000 donation by Uber, because Bryant found the offer to be “disingenuous” after Uber faced a sexual assault scandal5.  

For her work paving the way for other STEM minority groups, Bryant has been listed as one of the "25 Most Influential African-Americans In Technology" by Business Insider, has made both The Root 100 and Ebony Power 100 lists, was invited to the White House as a “Champion of Change,” received an American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress from the Smithsonian, and was bestowed the Inaugural Women Who Rule Award in Technology via Politico4.  

References: 

  1. Statista. (2017, June 28). The Gender Gap In Engineering. Retrieved from http://www.scientistafoundation.com/women-in-science-news/the-gender-gap-in-engineering

  1. Pew Research Center. (2018, January 9). Diversity in the STEM workforce varies widely across jobs. Retrieved from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/diversity-in-the-stem-workforce-varies-widely-across-jobs/

  1. Black Girls Code. (2018). About our founder. Retrieved from http://www.blackgirlscode.com/about-bgc.html.  

  1. Vanderbuilt University. (2020). Kimberly Bryant. Retrieved from https://engineering.vanderbilt.edu/alumni/Kimberly_Bryant.php

  1. National Society of Black Physicists. (2019, February 10). Kimberly Bryant. Retrieved from https://www.nsbp.org/nsbp-news/bhm-physics-profiles/2019-honorees/129-kimberly-bryant