Women’s History Month: 5 Black Women Leaders Who Have Graced The AFROTECH™ Stage

What better time to give Black women their flowers than during Women’s History Month? Although the recognition should be 365 days of the year, the annual observance is a special time.

As the celebration continues throughout March, AFROTECH™ is spotlighting Black women in technology and across various industries. 

On Nov. 13-16, AFROTECH™ Conference 2024 will return with its Women’s Summit. During last year’s conference, the Women’s Summit’s topics ranged from disrupting the beauty industry with technology to redefining leadership.

In the meantime of finding out this year’s panel lineup and discussions, here are five women speakers who have previously graced AFROTECH™ Conference 2023’s stages, held memorable sessions, and spread gems of wisdom.

AFROTECH™ 2024 speaker applications now open!

Monique Rodriguez

Mielle Organics’ Monique Rodriguez knows firsthand what it takes to build a successful company from the ground up. As a panelist for “Empowering Black Women Entrepreneurs: Voices of Success and Resilience,” the founder and CEO looked back at her journey of running a business in haircare and beauty. Moderated by the Director of Content & Programming at Blavity Media Group, Courtney Neal, the session was filled with empowering messages and keys for success. What’s more, Rodriguez led with transparency.

“When you’re operating a company as a CEO, I am the first to admit I don’t know everything,” Rodriguez said. “And I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t know everything, but what I do know is how to surround myself and find smart people that know more than me in areas that I don’t.”

Marsai Martin

There is power in the saying, “Youth are the future.” And Marsai Martin is a Gen Z’er who is playing her role in leading the charge. While the 19-year-old is known for being an actress and producer, she is also an ambassador for When We All Vote. In conversation with journalist Sylvia Obell, Martin spoke about the importance of civic engagement and social change. She also expressed her avid support for young people, especially young Black girls, to have their voices heard.

Mahisha Dellinger

Alongside Rodriguez for the panel “Empowering Black Women Entrepreneurs: Voices of Success and Resilience” was CURLS Founder and CEO Mahisha Dellinger. Like Rodriguez, Dellinger stressed how critical it is to have a team on your side as a Black woman entrepreneur.

“Every step of the way, you definitely should bring in assistance,” Dellinger noted.

She added, “Seek help and seek help early, especially if you’re going to go on the path of entrepreneurship.”

Dellinger also shared her story of persevering past the challenge of securing funding and the preparation level necessary for scaling a business.

Bianca Maxwell

Bianca Maxwell, principal product manager of growth at Disney, had a clear message to share on the Product & Engineering Stage.

“If I have an idea and my grandma can understand it once I’ve explained it to her, that means the way that I’m talking about her about the idea is enough into layman’s terms that anyone can understand it,” Maxwell expressed.

In other words, Maxwell shared her belief that people should avoid complex diction when looking to get their ideas across to others. Her direct sentiment was one of the numerous pieces of advice that she gave during her workshop for persuasive storytelling and pitches.

Erin McKinney

Education is integral to leading youth in the right direction for professional success. For upcoming Black technologists and tech entrepreneurs specifically, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are working to help their students excel in the industry, especially as artificial intelligence (AI) is steadily on the rise in the workplace.

National Executive Director of Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship Erin McKinney is part of the movement supporting tech entrepreneurship at HBCUs.

“The thing that motivates me most in my work is that entrepreneurship is a real form of protest and ultimately a way to economic freedom,” McKinney shared on the Learning Lab Stage.

If you don’t want to miss out learning from next year’s speakers, secure your tickets for AFROTECH™ Conference 2024 here.

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