After twenty years of building her career and expertise within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, Kimberly Bryant turned toward consulting work and began envisioning what starting her own company would look like. She increased her networking in the Bay Area when she realized that there weren’t many women or women of color at different events or meetups.
Then her daughter developed a passion for gaming and technology, joining her middle school’s robotics team and finding a potential career as a technologist.
“Out of her all girls’ school that she attended and the robotics team competitions, it looked just like those rooms that I was networking in,” Bryant recalls. “Seeing my daughter, the next generation in the same type of space lacking diversity, was alarming to me. I really wanted to solve that problem and perhaps create a future for my daughter that would be a little bit different than mine.”
She enrolled her daughter in a summer program at Stanford University to learn about computer science, coding, and game development. Bryant and a couple friends who worked at Genentech would bring their daughters to coding and hackathon events. But Bryant wanted to replicate the Stanford summer camp experience.
With the encouragement of her friends, Bryant created a six-week program in the fall of 2011 with Scratch, an open-source curriculum created by a group out of MIT. The success led to the formal creation of Black Girls CODE.
The organization started with a tour to different American cities in 2012, and the goal was to reach two hundred girls that summer. At the end, they reached one thousand. Black Girls CODE transitioned into a chapter-based model. Less than a decade later, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to pivot and offer virtual programs, which allowed a broader audience.
Black Girls CODE continues to offer virtual programs, in addition to alumni program models to meet the needs of young women entering college and the workforce.
“It’s our call as women who are in these male-dominated fields and have built their careers to reach back and teach the next generation,” Bryant says. “Our success is really being able to step into our own as the leaders and innovators that we are and help the next generation fill our shoes when we’re ready to move on.”
Bryant has her sights set on her next big idea: Ascend Ventures, a Black innovation lab that will provide founders the space, tools, and support to get them from idea to final product to funding. She wants to flip the notion of one person investing in a business to leveraging Web3 and blockchain ideologies so communities can not only support these founders but also profit when the company is successful.
With the success of Black Girls CODE and her shift toward Ascend Ventures, Bryant holds an active role in diversifying the tech industry.
“Technology inclusion is so important because the world is changing rapidly,” she says. “It’s important to have as many voices and perspectives at the table so that we meet the needs of a broader population and not just a singular one.”