Kimberly Bryant the CEO and Founder of Black Girls Code (founded in February 2011) has been removed indefinitely by their board of directors.
The nonprofit organization was established to give black women and girls access to tech and were established in 15 cities in the US and abroad.
They are known for hosting tech workshops and have provided opportunities to over 30,000 black girls.
On December 21st Kimberly Bryant found she could no longer access her work email and was sent a personal email notifying her that she had been “suspended indefinitely.”
Kimberly shared on Twitter and then formally:
“Press release: So it’s 3 days before Christmas and you wake up to discover the organization YOU created and built from the ground up has been taken away by a rogue board with no notification,” Bryant said in a tweet.
Press release: so it’s 3 days before Christmas and you wake up to discover the organization YOU created and built from the ground up has been taken away by a rogue board with no notification. VC: @BlackGirlsCode
— kimberlybryant.eth (@6Gems) December 21, 2021
Yes. This happened. It’s illegal. A mess. Without cause.
— kimberlybryant.eth (@6Gems) December 21, 2021
Two days later, Bryant responded to her temporary removal in a formal statement to TechCrunch.
“First and foremost, I know that I have not personally done anything unethical, immoral, or illegal as the Founder and CEO of Black Girls Code,” read the statement.
“As a founder who has built something from her own blood, sweat, and tears from the ground up, this fight for me is about justice and giving rights to founders, especially women in leadership. We must be treated fairly and just.”
Bryant’s statement continued: “None of the so-called allegations have been substantiated, no investigation has even started, and this entire process has been dishonest and unlawful.”
In a later statement to TechCrunch, the Black Girls Code board of directors said that they formed a special committee to review and evaluate complaints made by current and former employees about Bryant’s conduct.
The board formed a special committee to review the complaints, and placed Bryant on paid administrative leave last week “to ensure a full and fair review process.”
In her statement, Bryant identified interim board chair Heather Hiles, founder of edtech company Pathbrite, as the person who ultimately decided to suspend her “without fair investigation or substantiated allegations.”
When asked for more specifics by TechCrunch, Hiles responded in a text message that “the board has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the organization and the well-being of its staff.
I can confirm that the recent activities are a result of following through in that responsibility.”
Through a spokesperson, the board declined to comment on if there is an impending investigation, the process of Bryant’s suspension and if the founder was given any notice before being put on leave.
The board also declined to comment on the timeline for the ongoing review.
The founder claims there has been no active investigation, even after she approved a payment in October 2021 requested by an ad hoc committee of the board of directors to hire an attorney to conduct one.
The board said in a statement it has formed a special committee “to review and evaluate the complaints and determine what, if any, action should be taken with respect to these concerns.” The committee is fully made up of BCG board member
5 former employees of the organization have anonymously spoken to Tech Crunch about what it was like working with Black Girls Code.
According to Tech Crunch: Two former employees, both who spent months at the organization in leadership capacities, say employee churn was largely attributed to Bryant’s leadership style, which they describe was “rooted in fear.”
When Bryant was there, they say she would publicly berate managers within meetings, repeatedly calling folks incompetent and urging a manager to “go back to school” when they were unable to deliver on a certain task.
One employee said that a recurring phrase Bryant used was, “you’re not living up to my expectations of what you should be,” even though, the employee notes, she declined to give them independent access to widely-used productivity tools.
No new employees were given access to Salesforce, which they said prevented them from accessing key information about the community they were tasked with serving, including names, ages, and history in the program.
One employee detailed the lack of onboarding process, as well as Bryant’s absence in the daily operations in pursuit of media appearances.
“People stayed because they figured out the workarounds,” said one of the former employees.
“Someone said that it was to your benefit to stay off her radar, and if you could figure out how to execute your work even without access to specific systems, you’d be fine.”
“We know how it is perceived to take down a Black person,” they said.
“And that’s not even what we want to accomplish. We want the organization to be under leadership that could continue the growth of our work.”
Despite belief in the mission, they said they finally left the company, partially thanks to consulting their therapist.
“To work for an organization that is trying to change how you are treated, valued and appreciated — and when that doesn’t happen again — it’s really a particular kind of betrayal,” they added.
Kimberly Bryant’s Response
In a now-deleted tweet, Bryant said that “I am driven, [have] high expectations, and [am] a bit of a perfectionist. But I have never in my life misappropriated, misused, or abused anything or anybody for the org I built out of love. So don’t ever ever believe that. It’s not true.”
Checks and balances of power and support have been put in place at BGC, and I absolutely believe in proper board/corporate governance,” Bryant said in the written statement.
“There is nothing about how this matter was handled that is appropriate, and I have not been treated fairly or justly.”
Bryant has also denied that she put controls in place on what employees could access, she has also denied publicly humiliating managers, and attributes the high turnover to the pandemic.
According to Tech Crunch, at the time of their publication of the details of Kimberly’s removal she was still employed at BGC without access to her emails and any internal platforms.
“Current employees and contractors were told that if they communicated with Bryant, they would immediately be fired” Bryant says.
Dr. Sylvia Wilson Thomas, as a BGC board member, did not vote for this action, nor was she informed. Dr. Thomas did not give her permission for the Board to take this action on her behalf.
— TanyaMitchellGraham (@tmgesq) December 22, 2021
A board can vote you out as majority. It depends on how the nonprofit & its bylaws are set, but that’s usually the case. When you build a board, it’s people you trust. So the betrayal she must feel on top of the pain is insurmountable. These folks don’t deserve to take from her!
— Lisa Mae Brunson (@MissLisaMae) December 21, 2021
🤬I’m so over rogue Nonprofit boards. This happened to me and countless other female founders. There isn’t much you can do except prevent it by not having more than required minimum of board members. You and two other ppl you trust w the mission. @Christineprie17 @TheTiffSpencer
— Charise Van Liew (she/her) 😷💉⚖️🏳️🌈♿️ (@charisevl) December 21, 2021
— Glenn E. Martin (@glennEmartin) December 21, 2021
This organization is such an important fixture for the black community it is sad to see this happening.
There are a ton of nuances to consider but we can’t help but think about the Steve Job’s story.
He left Apple in 1985 after feeling forced out by the board of directors.
He then created another tech company called NEXT Inc that Apple later purchased in 1996.
By 1997 Jobs found himself back at Apple as interim CEO after the then CEO Gil Amelio, oversaw APPLE’s worse financial quarter.
We hope BGC will overcome this hurdle and continue to serve black women and girls.
Comment your thoughts below.