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The digital marketing landscape continues to grow at an incredible rate and the impact technology has on its evolution resides within the contributions of the many innovators, strategists and creatives in our communities.

As Black History month comes to an end, I’m reminded of several of those contributions given by African Americans, many whose work we are familiar with and others who I was as surprised as you may be to read about.

Emmitt McHenry co-founded Network Solutions, Inc., one of the early leading Internet domain services providers. In 1995, he founded NetCom Solutions International, a telecommunications and engineering company that has won awards from IBM and NASA, among other places.

Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in nuclear physics at MIT. Her experiments with theoretical physics paved the way for numerous developments in the telecommunication space including the touch-tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting, and the fiber-optic cable.

If you ever enjoyed an animated GIF on the web, like this throwback clip of Soul Train, then you have Lisa Gelobter to thank. She has been integrally involved with the advent of several pioneering internet technologies, including Shockwave, the genesis of animation on the web, and the emergence of online video by way of Brightcove, Joost, and The FeedRoom.

Previously, Lisa was the Interim Head of Digital for BET Networks and ran Technology, Product and Business Operations. She was also a member of the senior management team for the launch of Hulu.

Roy L. Clay, sometimes referred to as the “godfather of black Silicon Valley”, helped launch Hewlett-Packard’s computer division in the late 1960s and helped break down barriers for African-Americans in technology. The next generation of black tech innovators has greatly benefited from his commitment to recruitment and talent development.

Lonnie G. Johnson is a former Air Force and NASA engineer who invented the massively popular Super Soaker water gun.

“Fewer than 9 percent of American tech workers were African American and nearly 7 percent were Hispanic or Latino.”

The Need to Increase Access to Tech-Based Careers for Minorities

Leaders in tech routinely point out the importance of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in their sector, however, the diversity gap is still prevalent in employment numbers. Fewer than 9 percent of American tech workers were African American and nearly 7 percent were Hispanic or Latino, according to a Diversity in High Tech study by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The numbers are worse for people of color in executive level positions. These disparities can only be addressed by improving the access pipeline to emerging careers in technology by expanding programs such as STEM and establishing more early education opportunities like Black Girls Code, WeCanCodeIt, and Grand Circus (right here in Detroit).

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