Yale graduate, blogger, entrepreneur and author Kathryn Finney believed that her prior business accomplishments and experience would help her advance in the tech industry. She later realized that would not be the case.
Finney started blogging in 2003 as The Budget Fashionista to share advice she learned on her way to becoming fashionably frugal. The blog’s success later led Finney to a book deal with Random House and media appearances on the Today show, among others.
As Finney ventured deeper into the tech ecosystem, she faced unexpected challenges. After joining a tech incubator in 2007, she experienced an onset of preconceived notions and prejudices that some people in the technology industry had against women and minorities.
[pullquote align=”right”]Her experience with racial and gender bias led Finney to create digitalundivided, a social enterprise that aims to bridge the digital information gap for women and minorities through programs, projects and initiatives.[/pullquote]Finney recalls, “There were about 40 different folks involved [in this incubator I was a part of] … and only three [were] women,” Finney explains. “And not only was I one of the only women, I was the only black person. I was the only person of color outside of an Asian person … It was a very isolated community.” The experience led her to consider the unsettling reality that other women of color pursuing the same opportunities in tech were likely facing the same dilemma.
Her experience with racial and gender bias led Finney to create digitalundivided, a social enterprise that aims to bridge the digital information gap for women and minorities through programs, projects and initiatives.
“We have a series of events that we do, as well as a series of initiatives,” Finney says. “Our most well-known event is FOCUS100, which is held the first week in October in New York City. It’s for companies founded or co-founded by black women in tech companies, VCs, angel investors, corporate entities and other folks who are just interested in the future of tech. We also produce a series called START that takes place in cities all around the country… START is a pipeline event to get folks into the tech pipeline and to start thinking about tech as a business and creating tech-enabled businesses.“
Learn how Kathryn Finney aims to leverage her personal experiences with racial and gender bias to make the road easier for women and minorities entering the tech ecosystem.
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How I Got Started
I’ve been in the tech field for a while, on the media side as the creator of one of the first style blogs called The Budget Fashionista that I created in 2003.
I participated in an incubator and really encountered quite a number of challenges that had nothing to do with my skill set or my idea. I realized if someone like myself (who has this background and did all of these great things, from schooling to having created something before) was tackling these sorts of challenges, I wondered what was happening to other women and minorities, particularly in the tech space.
I realized if someone like myself (who has this background and did all of these great things…) was tackling these sorts of challenges, I wondered what was happening to other women and minorities, particularly in the tech space.
So the idea to create digitalundivided, a social enterprise focused on increasing the number of black and latino women in the digital space, had been mulling in my head for a while.
In early 2012 I came on to BlogHer as editor-at-large, and BlogHer is a huge organization that represents millions of women bloggers. I started getting really involved with them and I participated in their March 2012 entrepreneur conference. As a result, I got the idea to do something similar — centered around black women, but for the minority community at large. That’s where the idea for digitalundivided, and the FOCUS100 technology conferences came from. We started off as a conference and it really gelled into a business quite rapidly.
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