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Celebrating Black women founders working in STEM

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Débora Moretti & Andreia Oliveira of iBench

As a woman fintech founder in London in the early 2010s, I felt like an anomaly: The intersection of science, tech and finance didn’t necessarily attract the most gender-diverse talent. Ten years later, there’s still work to be done. As a well-educated white woman — albeit an immigrant — I shouldn’t stand out in the tech industry, but still only 2.3% of all global venture capital goes to women-led companies.

Change won’t be meaningful if it doesn’t impact all women. Women of color are among the most talented founders I’ve met, and yet data shows they are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to securing investors and support. By creating opportunities for everyone, initiatives like the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund are closing the tech and science equality gap.

This International Day of Women and Girls in Science, meet six women Black Founders Fund recipients from around the world who are paving the way in STEM and the startup ecosystem.

A Black woman with long blonde hair and wearing a pink blazer sits facing the camera.

Christine Izuakor, Founder of Cyber Pop-Up

Christine Izuakor, Founder of Cyber Pop-Up — Chicago, IL

"When I took my first cybersecurity course, I became obsessed. I realized that everything from smart medical devices to e-enabled transportations systems can be hacked if not protected adequately, and I wanted to help. At 23, I set my sights on my biggest goal yet: a Ph.D. in Security Engineering. I wanted to become a thought leader in cybersecurity and make a difference in protecting the world from cyber-attacks. I was told I was too young, and that I had nothing to contribute. Ever want to see my beast mode switch flipped? Tell me I can’t do, or have, something I want.

Doubt became a source of motivation. I was determined to show my critics and myself that I didn’t care about ceilings or status quo — I was going to do this, and I did! That’s exactly what I would say to girls and young women of color hoping to break into science and tech. If you want something, no matter how many people doubt you or don’t believe in you, go for it! Become obsessed with continuous growth and learning. Hone your craft and strive to be the best at whatever you do. If you want to be a founder, fall in love with the problem you are solving and know that the solution may change a hundred times. And that’s OK. Remember these things and you’ll get much further, much faster! "

A Black woman with short brown hair and wearing a black and white patterned shirt smiles at the camera.

Chantelle Bell, Cofounder of Syrona Health

Chantelle Bell, Cofounder of Syrona Health — London, U.K.

“I’ve always been interested in how the body works and how technology can advance disease detection and condition management. This led me to study genetics, where I quickly realized there weren’t many Black women professors in the research areas that I followed. In fact, less than 1% of university professors in the U.K. are Black.

During this time, I had my own challenges navigating the healthcare system. I was determined to make a change and contribute to advancing women’s health, and I knew tech was the way forward.

I went on to earn a Master’s in Bioscience Enterprise at Cambridge University, where I first connected with my cofounder, Anya Roy. A conversation about how female reproductive issues were under-researched, underfunded and misunderstood sparked the idea for our startup, Syrona Health: a virtual gynecological health clinic offering specialized support for people with endometriosis, PCOS, and other chronic conditions in the women’s health space.

There may be a lack of diversity in STEM, but don’t let that discourage you. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and who you can learn from, particularly the current generation of women leading the way.”

Two Black women with curly brown hair and wearing white t-shirts stand in front of a colorful mural.

Andreia Oliveira & Débora Moretti, Cofounders of iBench

Débora Moretti & Andreia Oliveira, Cofounders of iBench — São Paulo, Brazil

“To study biology at the molecular level shows you how complex and intricate every single organism is.

As Black scientists and founders, things are challenging. We were in a world dominated by white men. But not only did we found a startup, we were the first of our families to earn PhDs — and Andreia was the first to get a college degree. We represent something in academia and tech, way more than our work, and this motivates us. Our advice: Be aware of potential problems, be twice aware of your strengths and keep opening pathways to success for those who come after you.”

A Black woman with shoulder-length brown hair and wearing a white shirt smiles at the camera.

Maame Poku, CTO and Cofounder of Emergency Response Africa — Lagos, Nigeria

Maame Poku, CTO and Cofounder of Emergency Response Africa — Lagos, Nigeria

“The thrill of bringing concepts to life was highly gratifying, and to be able to build something meaningful that could potentially be life-altering for people was why I decided to pursue a career in STEM. By co-founding Emergency Response Africa, a healthcare technology company that is changing how medical emergencies are managed in Africa, I am able to apply my knowledge in software development to the practical understanding of regional needs, kickstarting a radical approach to solving the problem of poor emergency care.

To all the young women of color out there interested in the space, I urge you to take that first step! Take that course; ask for help; get a coach and mentor! Let's continue to break the stereotype of technology being male-dominated. You are more than capable!”

A Black woman with short brown hair and wearing sunglasses, a brown blazer, and a graphic t-shirt stands facing the camera, arms across her body and hands folded.

Chasity Wright, CEO of Infiltron Software Suite and Founder of Kitt Labs

Chasity Wright, CEO of Infiltron Software Suite and Founder of Kitt Labs — Atlanta, GA

“After working in various industries like defense tech, logistics and healthcare, I built a company with a vision to create opportunities for veterans, women and minorities. As an advocate for diversity in tech and STEM, I feel the need to give back to those who see themselves in me by providing career opportunities, appropriate salaries and career advancement otherwise not given in the corporate world.

My advice to young women of color looking to step into tech is to find what you love to do. The best way to do that is to try as many things in tech as you can, as soon as you can. When you find something in tech you feel excited and at peace about doing, you have then found your tech purpose. Don't let the male-dominated field intimidate you — the tech world needs our perspective.”

The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund provides cash awards — without giving up equity in return — and hands-on support to help Black entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses. Learn more about the 200+ recipients from around the world.

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