In anticipation of our ‘Women in Innovation’ event at Google, we spotlight 5 incredible black British women in the fields of tech, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Much like finance, tech has long been deemed a man’s world. From an early age, boys are believed to be more naturally inclined to STEM subjects than girls (a myth), so much so that it’s still fairly common to walk into a computer science lecture and see only one or two female faces. What’s more, the tech industry is also one of the least ethnically diverse, with black employees often making up fairly meagre percentages at the big tech companies. Sadly, it’s a similar case in the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, where black women form a small minority of start-up founders; according to the Wall Street Journal, female and minority-owned start-ups are also far less likely to receive VC funding. Here at WCAN, we’re determined to help change that, which is why we’re hosting our first ever #WCANTech event in collaboration with the Black Googler Network for young black women interested in tech, startups, enterprise and STEM. In anticipation, we’ve compiled a list of five amazing black British women who are already making waves in these fields.
Ade Hassan, Founder & CEO @ Nubian Skin
When former financier Ade Hassan launched Nubian Skin in October 2014, it was, for many black women, an answered prayer. Frustrated by the lack of ‘nude’ lingerie and hosiery options for women of colour, Ade set out to create an inclusive underwear brand selling bras, knickers, stockings and more in a variety of styles, sizes and skin tones, from the fairest Café au Lait to the darkest Berry. Since its launch, the revolutionary company has grabbed international headlines, attracting media attention from Buzzfeed, The Guardian and Marie Claire, while its founder has been nominated for and won multiple accolades including Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year. Today, Nubian Skin’s products can be found on the shelves of major fashion retailers and boast a bevy of celebrity fans, from supermodel Jourdan Dunn to Queen Bey herself.
Mercedes Benson, Social Media Manager @ Google UK
In autumn last year, Mercedes Benson fulfilled every millennial’s career dream by converting her love for social media into a high-powered role at the world’s most iconic tech company. After studying biomedical sciences at St George’s, Benson opted for a more creative path, gaining work experience in digital and PR while running a successful style blog and racking up tens of thousands of online followers in the process. The digital influencer was eventually handpicked by Google UK to manage its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, produce online content and create striking social campaigns promoting their products.
Anne-Marie Imafidon, Co-Founder @ Stemettes
As the co-founder of Stemettes, an organisation that encourages young women to pursue careers in STEM, Anne-Marie Imafidon has been one of a handful of women leading UK efforts to break tech’s glass ceiling. The ‘child prodigy’ earned GCSEs in Maths and IT at the age of 11, graduated with an MSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from Oxford at 20 and in 2013, set up Stemettes, later joined by co-founder Jacquelyn Guderley. As of today, thousands of young women have participated in Stemettes events, from hackathons to app-building workshops to panel discussions, while Imafidon has since appeared on multiple honours lists including Management Today’s 35 Under 35.
Alexis Oladipo, Founder and Managing Director @ Gym Bites
Hackney-born Alexis Oladipo was inspired to set up her company after being unable to find nutritious post-gym food. Gym Bites aimed to fill that gap in the market via a line of fresh, healthy meals in grab-and-go jars. With a little help from Prince’s Trust, the brand was launched in 2013, and has since been featured in the pages of Vogue and stocked on the shelves of high-end department store Selfridges. What’s more, Oladipo’s determination for Gym Bites to have a positive social impact means the company also donates any leftovers to charities around the city.
Sharmadean Reid MBE, Founder @ WAH Nails
Since founding the cult WAH London nail salon in Dalston in 2009, Central Saint Martins graduate Sharmadean Reid has owned a pop-up in Topshop’s Oxford Street flagship, launched a line of products in Boots, released two books and collaborated with top brands such as Nike and Marc Jacobs. This year, the unstoppable beauty maven is working on plans to open a high-tech ‘salon-of-the-future’ in Soho in November and recently ran Future Girl Corp, a 12-hour workshop for the next generation of ‘female CEOS’, many of whom hope to one day emulate Reid’s dazzling success.
Meet Ade, Anne-Marie and many more of Britain’s most innovative black women by signing up to the WCAN Women in Innovation Event at Google!