For eons, Black women innovators have made significant achievements.
However, they have been sidelined and underappreciated for too long.
Even in the 21st century, Black women innovators still have to fight to gain the recognition they deserve.
So, this list pays homage to them: the hardworking Black women innovators shaping the world in their respective fields.
Field: Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence
Achievements: First Female Computer Scientist on the Harvard Society of Fellows
Ethiopian-born Rediet Abebe is among the foremost Black women innovators under 35–she’s still only 32.
She currently works at the University of California, Berkeley, as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science.
In 2016, the computer scientist co-created the MD4SG research initiative, a research collective that tackles inequality through algorithms and mechanism design.
The same year, she also launched Black in AI, a network of Black researchers in Artificial Intelligence.
In 2019, Abebe made history when she became the first Black computer scientist and the first female computer scientist to become a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.
Abebe is among the Black women innovators you should keep an eye on in the rapidly-growing Artificial Intelligence field.
Erica Joy Baker
Field: Software Engineering
Achievements: Brought attention to the racial pay gap in STEM companies like Google
Erica Joy Baker is the Chief Technology Officer for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Born in Germany, the software engineer has worked with major companies like Google, Microsoft, and Patreon.
However, her time at Google was the most significant.
She formed a spreadsheet for the tech giant’s workers to reveal their earnings.
Through the spreadsheet, Baker exposed how Google paid its workers differently based on race and gender.
She revealed the details in tweets that gained global attention from multiple major news outlets.
Thanks to the backlash Baker caused, tech companies were forced to offer minorities and women better pay.
Baker is clearly among the Black women innovators bringing us closer to true equality.
Field: Computer Science
Achievements: She created the GIF
Everyone uses GIFs nowadays, though we never consider who created the technology.
Well, that honor belongs to Lisa Gelobter.
The computer scientist is among the Black women innovators whose inventions are used worldwide.
She also pioneered tech like Shockwave, a video game multimedia platform, and was among the professionals who created Hulu.
In 2016, she created tEquitable, a confidential platform that addresses workplace harassment, discrimination, and bias.
Because of her achievements, Fast Company named Gelobter one of the world’s most creative people–she’s also among the most forward-thing Black women innovators.
Field: Computer Science, Biotechnology
Achievements: She founded Black Girls Code
At the start of Bryant’s career, she worked at the electrical companies DuPont and Westinghouse Electric.
However, she focused on biotechnology and moved to pharma companies like Pfizer, Novartis, and Genentech.
However, Bryant gained international recognition in 2011 for founding Black Girls Code, a platform teaching Black girls about technology.
Bryant founded Black Girls Code after her daughter showed interest in programming.
Bryant was recently embroiled in controversy when her own company kicked her out.
However, she remains among the most influential Black women innovators of the 21st century for inspiring countless Black girls to act on their interest in tech.
Field: Computer Science
Achievements: She founded the Algorithmic Justice League to make tech accountable and equitable
The computer scientist has also devoted herself to helping international communities embrace technology responsibly.
In 2011, she developed an assessment-based system for Ethiopia.
In 2013, she teamed up with Zambian computer scientists to help the local youth become technology creators.
In 2016, Buolamwini founded the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) to make AI equitable and accountable.
The AJL dives deep into art and research to find the negative implications of AI and keep it in check.
Buolamwini is undoubtedly among the brightest Black women innovators in tech today.
Field: Surface Chemistry
Achievements: She developed biosensors used to detect COVID-19 in wastewater
Omowunmi “Wunmi” A. Sadik is among the Black women innovators whose works have saved lives.
The Nigerian scientist developed biosensors to detect bombs and drugs.
However, the biosensors became increasingly significant in 2020 during the pandemic–scientists used them to detect the levels of the Coronavirus in wastewater.
This breakthrough allowed local authorities to monitor the infection rate and take the necessary measures.
Through her work, Sadik helps public officials to make public health policies to protect humans and the environment.
Sadik also co-created the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) to foster the development of sustainable nanotech to improve society.
Field: Engineering, Business
Achievements: She became the first Black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 Company
Ursula Burns spent her entire career at Xerox.
She started as an intern in 1980 and worked her way up until she became the CEO of Xerox in 2009.
In the process, Burns became the first Black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Burns has also served on the board of directors of major companies like AmericanExpress and Uber.
She is a prime example of starting from the bottom and stands tall among today’s Black women innovators.
Field: Computer Science
Achievements: She founded CodeNewbie
She founded CodeNewbie as a community for coders and those learning to code.
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Yitbarek also started a Twitter chat to link new coders, share lessons, support each other, and swap resources.
The chat became so popular that Yitbarek turned it into a podcast where she interviewed both beginning and established developers.
Achievements: She created Goodr to minimize food waste and reduce world hunger
While most people in power talk about ending hunger, Jasmine Crowe is doing something about it.
The Black entrepreneur and anti-hunger activist founded Goodr to help the homeless community and households with food insecurity.
Crowe uses her company to connect companies to local charities and arrange the delivery of leftovers to people and communities in need.
Crowe plans to expand to other cities and eventually help impoverished communities in other countries.
She is undoubtedly among the Black women innovators who offer simple, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that solutions for complex issues.
Field: Technology, Entrepreneurship
Achievements: She founded TresseNoire and co-founded Black Women Talk Tech
In 2014, Regina Gwynn launched TresseNoire, a virtual beauty platform that teaches Black women which natural hair products–from the millions out there–are best for their hair texture.
TresseNoire also connected users to relevant professional stylists.
Field: Computer Science
Achievements: She founded platforms to help Black women innovators learn to code and network with each other.
Fey Ijaware works at the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) Digital as the Senior Front-End Developer.
In her current role, Ijaware uses her skills to help millions.
‘Being a self-taught developer, I also had a lot of self-doubt about my abilities
— DWP Digital (@DWPDigital) December 13, 2022
She founded Code Possible to help aspiring developers learn how to code and give them a community to help each other grow.
Ijaware also founded CodeandStuff, a British networking and coding platform for non-binary and female developers.
Field: Software Development
Achievements: She was the CEO of TaskRabbit at its prime
Stacy Brown-Philpot started at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Goldman Sachs.
She then landed a job at Google, leading operations for its flagship products like Google+ and Chrome.
Next, Brown-Philpot worked at Google Ventures as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
She then became the CEO of TaskRabbit, a task management platform connecting clients with Taskers who handled their daily tasks at home.
During Brown-Philpot’s reign, TaskRabbit was among the most innovative companies globally–no wonder, since the CEO is among the smartest Black women innovators.
The CEO also oversaw IKEA’s acquisition of TaskRabbit.
Thanks to Brown-Philpot’s efforts, the Washington Post acknowledged her as a trailblazing woman in tech.
Jessica O. Matthews
Field: Engineering, Entrepreneurship
Achievements: She invented an innovative soccer ball that generates energy which powers devices
Jessica O. Matthews is among the Black women innovators who made something the world needs, especially in third-world nations.
And she did it at 19.
In college, Matthews invented SOCCKET, a soccer ball that doubles as a backup generator–the more you play, the more power it generates.
She co-founded Uncharted Power to develop the Soccket and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Through the company, Matthews developed more inventions like a jump rope which functioned like the Soccket.
By 2017, half a million devices were in use in African countries.
Matthews became Black Entreprise’s Entrepreneur of the Year for her inventions in 2013.
Achievements: She engineered spacecraft that flew the closest to the sun in NASA’s history
Powtawche Valerino is among the Black women innovators carving a name for themselves in NASA.
The engineer joined NASA’s Cassini mission as a navigator.
She guided the spacecraft and helped it outlast its expected four-year lifespan–instead, the mission lasted for 13 years.
In 2018, Valerino worked on the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft.
She became part of history when the spacecraft became the closest-ever human-made object to the sun–and it’s set to break its own record when it flies past Venus.
Sossina M. Haile
Field: Chemical Engineering
Achievements: She created the first solid acid fuel cells as an alternative source of power
Sossina M. Haile had a rough childhood, with her family fleeing the 1970s coup in Ethiopia.
However, Haile was determined to join the ranks of extraordinary Black women innovators.
Haile worked as part of the Caltech faculty from 1996 to 2015, when she joined Northwestern University.
She is currently a Professor of Applied Physics and the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.
Haile researches solid-state ionic materials and devices with an emphasis on energy technologies.
She invented a new class of fuel cells that will help make the world greener if implemented.
For her efforts, Haile received numerous accolades, like:
- American Competitiveness and Innovation (ACI) Fellowship from the National Science Foundation
- 2010 Chemical Pioneers Award of the Chemical Heritage Foundation
- 2012 International Ceramics Prize for the World Academy of Ceramics
Field: Planetary Science
Achievements: Her work in planetary science made scientists rename an asteroid after her
Dr. Lynnae Quick is a celebrated planetary scientist with significant contributions to our understanding of the solar system.
She currently works at NASA as a planetary scientist, and her research studies small bodies in the solar system, like asteroids and comets, and their role in the solar system’s creation.
Dr. Quick was part of NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which sent a spacecraft to intercept a comet and study its interior.
She was also part of the OSIRIS-REx mission, collecting a sample of an asteroid to bring back to Earth for study.
Field: Organic Chemistry
Achievements: She created molecules that fight against Hepatitis C
Dawn Ward is an accomplished organist chemist with significant contributions to chemical research.
After her degree, Ward was a schoolteacher and worked in several chemical industry positions.
She received her doctorate and started research on synthesizing medical agents with anticancer and or antiviral properties.
Through her research, Ward created molecules that fight Hepatitis C.
Treena Livingston Arinzeh
Field: Biomedical Engineering
Achievements: She developed a new form of scaffold for tissue engineering
After her high school teacher encouraged Treena Livingston Arinzeh to study the sciences, she did it–better than anyone could have hoped and becoming among the leading Black women innovators in biomedical engineering.
With a Ph.D. in bioengineering, Arinzeh is among the foremost names in stem cell research.
In 2003, Arinzeh successfully showed how donor stem cells could be transplanted from one cell to another.
Her research helped advance our understanding of how stem cells can treat conditions like spinal cord injuries, cardiovascular disease, and bone defects.
Arinzeh also developed a new biodegradable scaffold for tissue engineering.
Her scaffold supports the growth and development of new tissues and dissolves once the tissue is fully established.
Arinzeh’s breakthrough has paved the way for new advances in tissue engineering and can improve outcomes for people with different medical conditions.
Field: Medical Physics
Achievements: She developed a new method to treat cancer
When she was young, Hadiyah-Nicole Green lost her aunt and uncle to cancer.
This loss made Green devote her life to curing the disease.
She interned at NASA and discovered she could use lasers to treat cancer.
The doctor secured funding and developed a method to use lasers to create an image of cancerous cells and lower the time it takes to target them.
Her revolutionary treatment eliminates the devastating side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
Field: Video Game Design
Achievements: She worked on several high-profile video games that made millions
Lisette Titre-Montgomery is a legend in the video game industry.
She studied computer animation after watching Toy Story and soon landed a job as a modeler for the 2002 game, Freekstyle.
Her work earned the attention of Electronic Arts, and she worked on several high-profile games, including:
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007
- The Simpsons Game
- Dante’s Inferno
- Dance Central 3
- The Sims 4
Titre-Montgomery also advocates for Black girls to learn to code and join the STEM industry–she is a member of Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code.
The game designer is living proof that Black women innovators can dominate any field they enter, even if it’s predominantly male and white.
Field: Arts, Entrepreneurship
Achievements: She founded an innovative STEM+Arts program for minority teens
Deena Pierott is a serial entrepreneur and among the most diverse Black women innovators.
In 2011, she created iUrban Teen, a STEM+Arts program for minority teens that mentored and readied them for college.
In 2013, Pierott was honored as the White House Champion of Change for iUrban Teen.
The entrepreneur is also the President of Mosaic Blueprint, a firm specializing in diversity recruiting and consulting, multicultural branding, and career readiness.
Pierott is also a public speaker, discussing topics like:
- The Art of Leadership
- Every Day Biases in the Workplace
- Women’s Leadership
- Women and the Hidden Color Barrier
- Diversity Recruiting and Retention
These Black Women Innovators Are Shaping The World
From medicine to entrepreneurship and the arts, these Black women innovators are improving the world.
You might not have heard of most of them, but now you do.
These Black women innovators are inspiring Black youths and are living examples that you can follow your dreams, no matter which industry it’s in.