International Women's Day

Breaking Barriers and Making Change—Black Women in Tech

Written by: Weslyn Harmon + L.A. Carpenter


On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, the Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership hosted the seventh annual International Women’s Day celebration, Breaking Barriers and Making Change—Black Women in Tech. The virtual roundtable featured Erica Terry Derryck of Intuit, Denasia Pinkard of Meta, and Ms. Chanelle Hardy of Google. Panelists unpacked Black women's unique challenges in the industry and their contributions as disruptors--creating space and community that reflects the diverse values and ambitions of different individuals and groups.

The event also aligned with this year’s United Nations Women’s International Women’s Day theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” which, among other areas, is focused on promoting gender equality and supporting policy and innovation that meet the needs of women and girls.

Technology continues to shape every aspect of our lives, and the panelists had unique insights for overcoming barriers one may face in the future while building a career in the tech industry. Women make up 27% of tech, and only ¾% are BIPOC. Our panelists also discussed their experiences working in tech and transitioning to leadership roles.

Denasia Pinkard is a Content Design Manager and Equity Lead at Meta. Before beginning her current role, she started her journey in a junior position at Meta three years ago. She utilized strategy to grow within her role and performed at a level above her title, and she was promoted within six months. Pinkard emphasized the importance of being a high performer in your role and “avoid fixation on a role or title, instead focus on building a career and skills within a firm.” She created a terminology list for her colleagues during the height of the push for diversity transparency that began in corporations in 2020. Pinkard advised participants to build relationships with mentors and sponsors who recognize their work's quality and will advocate for them within their network. 

Chanelle Hardy is the Head of Civil Rights and Strategic Outreach for Google. She leads engagement with multicultural and civil rights organizations and develops the corporate civil rights program. Hardy has been at Google for over seven years and is the first person of color to achieve her role at Google. She argued that one of the biggest barriers in the industry is the inability to picture Black women in leadership roles in tech outside of STEM-focused concentrations. She started with a public service career focus. After becoming a Teach for America Fellow, she desired to see the structures that contributed to the hardship that schools and communities faced. Hardy saw how companies such as Google impacted their users and where she could make a difference.  

Erica Terry Derryck leads global communications for Intuit’s Small Business and Self-Employed Group. As the VP of Communications, Ms. Derryck provides a different perspective on technology from most of her colleagues. This is critical when a firm wants to see its products from a consumer standpoint. When Derryk transitioned from the public to the private sector, she evaluated the company values to ensure they aligned with hers. The DEI department at her firm is essential, and access to resource groups within the firm is also important. Both DEI and resources groups present formal and informal ways for employees of underrepresented groups to be represented and stimulate change within policy and company culture. 

Multiple questions were asked to the panelists during the event on the advice they would give to black intellectuals trying to enter the tech industry. HBCU recruitment has become an essential source of talent searching for firms. At Google, for example, initiatives are starting to grow offices in areas where underrepresented groups are populated. Diversity and Inclusion are the focus of a profitable business model in any industry, and tech companies such as Intuit are making strides to invest in businesses led by people of color. The panelists told the audience of 90 participants that there are various roles within large tech companies for people in non-STEM fields. They advised students to reach out and gain information from people in the current role they want to be in. 

One panelist advised the audience to enter a field with a skill-building mindset and stated, “If I am going to be the smartest person in the room, then it is probably not the opportunity for me” In other words, students should join organizations where they will be challenged to learn and grow their skills and talents. After beginning a position, one panelist emphasized the impact of resource groups at her firm on her career. Resource groups are spaces where individuals can join with others for mentorship, advice, or community. 

The Center is especially excited because this conversation starts a new area of programming for the Women’s Center, focusing on Black women and technology. We are developing a research program and student-focused events that examine the topic from the social sciences, humanities, and STEM.

Meet the 2023 Panelists

Chanelle Hardy

Chanelle Hardy is a social justice, tech policy and civil rights expert, working to ensure that corporate and public policies benefit BIPOC and vulnerable communities.  As Head of Civil Rights and Strategic Outreach for Google, she leads engagement with multicultural and civil rights organizations and develops the corporate civil rights program.  Over the past five years at Google, she has led signature initiatives including Google’s $1m donation, 3-D installation built by Google Engineers and celebration of Founding Director Lonnie Bunch of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; a $1m donation and initiative in support of the Morehouse School of Medicine for COVID response and pandemic preparedness; and launching and leading Google’s Next-Gen Policy Leaders Program, a learning community for multicultural leaders in tech policy.  Before joining Google, Chanelle served as a Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill, SVP of Policy for the National Urban League, and Chief of Staff to the first female chair of the Federal Communications Commission.  She is a former 5th grade DC Public Schools Teach for America teacher and Consumers Union Policy Fellow. She serves on the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies boards, the Anacostia Museum and Skinner Leadership Institute.

Chanelle is an English and Music major and a proud Howard University School of Law graduate. She is the oldest of six children in a close-knit family, a lifelong Washingtonian and a member of Kingdom Fellowship AME. She is an alumna of the American Council of Young Political Leaders and the Skinner Leadership Institute’s Masters Series for Distinguished Leaders. 

Denasia Pinkard

Denasia Pinkard is a Content Design Manager and Equity Lead at Meta. She is also a lead content strategist as an independent consultant. She has previously held the position of content strategist at Purple Strategies and Booz Allen Hamilton. Her other work experiences included content strategy at Clarabridge and Cvent.

Denasia received her BA in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication from Morgan State University and her MA in International Marketing from the University of Maryland Global Campus. She currently sits on the board of Girls Empowerment Mission, and program designed to empower high school girls from underserved communities by providing opportunities and growth experiences that will enable them to become independent, self-sufficient, and confident young women. She is also the creator of “The Hedonist”, a curated lifestyle newsletter tailored to women that provides information on the latest trends in luxury, wealth building, and living a guilt-free, luxurious life. 

Erica Terry Derryck

A communication professional with over 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors, Erica Terry Derryck currently leads global communications for the Small Business and Self-Employed Group at Intuit. Before driving communications for the business unit that brings QuickBooks and Mailchimp to millions of small and mid-size businesses worldwide, she led the PR, social, editorial and marketing partnership teams at Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox web browser. She served as communications director for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and former San Francisco District Attorneys Kamala D. Harris and George Gascón.

Born and raised in NYC, Erica is a soon-to-be empty-nester who lives in Oakland. When not wrangling teenagers with her husband, she aspires to knit, travel and read more, but does home improvement projects, watches bad TV, tours estate sales and plots becoming a full-time florist. She has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley and a BA from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.