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We Aren’t Talking Enough about Racial Diversity in Tech

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When Dez White came up with the idea for Invisible Text, she was very intimidated by technology – but her developer insisted on teaching her programming. Today, as she works with four different teams, she doesn’t have to sit on the sidelines.

“When we’re coding our new improvements or setting up our new graphic design or looking at the database for the server and adding in new features, I’m right there. . . . I’m working hand in hand – I’m not just sitting back saying, ‘We should do this’ and ‘Oh no, we shouldn’t do that,’” says White. “Educate yourself so you don’t have to rely solely on your developer.”

The help she got was part of the inspiration for GirlCode, a series of free tech events for girls and women ages 13+. On September 6, the first event will kick off in Los Angeles and include speakers, coding education, and networking. 

White claims to be the youngest female African American tech entrepreneur to invent and successfully launch a suite of apps, which include private communication apps Invisible Text, Invisible Call, Invisible Email, and Invisible Social. She’s working with Jay Z’s former business partner Damon Dash on her next project, Blind Debit, an app that replaces plastic credit cards with fingerprints. 

We sat down with the mother of two to learn more about her views on diversity in tech:

Girl Code LA Dez WhiteTech Cocktail: Why do you want to teach more girls to code? 

Dez White: I’m interested because someone helped me, and I’m inclined to pass it forward. I think it’s untapped and untouched, and women really need to get involved because there’s a space here for us. And I feel like it’s my goal and my purpose to help as many women get involved in technology as possible. I was intimidated at first, and now I’m in love with technology. 

Tech Cocktail: Do you think there’s enough conversation about racial diversity in tech, rather than just gender diversity? 

Dez White: I don’t think that there’s enough conversation. I think I’m slowly creeping to that conversation. I don’t want to be walking down the street with a bullhorn screaming about African Americans or Asians or Latinos in technology. Right now, I just like to start the conversation off with women. And I feel like [since] I’m an African American woman, I start the conversation without even having to start it.

Tech Cocktail: Have you faced any challenges because of your gender or race? 

Dez White: In anything, if you’re a woman and something is solely driven by men, it intimidates them when you become a part of the conversation. I just try to remain as friendly as possible, to tell people that I’m not there to intimidate, I’m not there to take spaces, I’m just there to do what I want to do for myself. And there’s enough space for everybody – there’s enough space for every race, every gender, every sexual preference. Instead of getting intimidated, everybody should just help each other. The mind is beautiful, and it has no race or no sex, and that’s what drives technology – the mind.

Tech Cocktail: Are you tired of talking about these issues? Do you wish we didn’t have to talk about them? 

Dez White: No! I appreciate it because I feel one day (knock on wood) when I’m taken away from here, somebody will be able to read what I said and hopefully it will inspire them if they’re getting into technology and they feel intimidated.

Tech Cocktail: Do you have any tips for girls in tech? 

Dez White: Don’t give up – and I know that seems very standard, because everyone says don’t give up. When I say don’t give up, I mean if someone intimidates you and makes you feel like you don’t know enough, don’t give up. Go read, ask somebody else, get another developer. Don’t let one person stop you from your journey. I’m very persevering, so one person could never stop me from my journey, but I know not everybody is able to persevere.

After Los Angeles, the next GirlCode events will be held in New York (late September) and Miami (winter). 

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About the Author

Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and positive psychology. Since 2011, she has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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