Spelman College Hosts Equity in Innovation Symposium, Celebrating Black Women as Disruptors in Tech

Written By Spelman College

The Spelman College Camille Olivia Hanks, Ed.D., Academic Center auditorium buzzed with excitement and anticipation as students, alumnae and Atlanta technology professionals gathered to learn about the future of innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and to celebrate Black women as disruptors in tech.

Spelman College hosted the Equity in Innovation Symposium in collaboration with Google to celebrate Google.org’s (Google’s charitable arm) $5 million dollar grant to Spelman College in 2022. The grant supports the creation of an extensive data hub, which will track the contributions of Black, Latina and Indigenous women in STEM. “This grant has allowed us to advance a strategic goal of the [Spelman College] Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, and that is really to become the leading global hub for the development and dissemination of research data and curriculum focused on Black Women in STEM,” said Tinaz Pavri, Ph.D., division chair of Humanities and Social Science at Spelman College, who has helped lead the creation of the data hub.

Highlights of the event included “AI Lightning Talks”, examining how artificial intelligence intersects with education, cybersecurity, advocacy and the arts. Lightning Talk speakers included Google cloud leaders Francine Marqui and Spelman mom Willa Blasingame (mother of Class of 2023 valedictorian Maya Blasingame) and Spelman professors Khalilah Ali, Ph.D., T. Lang, and Jaye Nias, Ph.D.

Ada Renee Johnson, C’2000, who serves as the change implementation, strategy & innovation manager in Google People Operations, expressed her enthusiasm about the event and its significance. “This symposium helped to address the systemic barriers that have historically excluded underrepresented groups from the tech industry,” Johnson said. “It was a reminder that when we invest in diverse voices, we foster a more inclusive and innovative future for all.”

Additionally, participants enjoyed a fireside chat featuring Spelman President Helene Gayle and Google’s Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker, discussing opportunities for Black women in technology.

During the discussion, Parker expanded upon Google’s vision for supporting Spelman. “We want to make sure that you have the resources you need to the degree that we are able to continue to develop leaders here at Spelman and that we’re [delivering] talent back to the greater global society that has the training that they need and the access that they need.”