Kathryn Finney has seen the power of technology and its ability to change people’s lives. When her father decided to go back to school as an adult and transition to the technology field, she saw how it changed the entire trajectory of her family. He eventually became an engineer and worked at Microsoft.
Despite having grown up around computers, Finney didn’t go to college for engineering or computer science. She studied political science and women’s studies, and then epidemiology in graduate school. But in 2003, Finney started blogging as The Budget Fashionista
, one of the first fashion blogs, which led to a book deal with Random House and appearances on the Today
show, among others.
Again, she saw her life change because of technology. And now, as the founder of digitalUNdivided
, she hopes to bring that type of change to others’ lives.
“Seeing the impact technology has had on me, and my experiences, and knowing how powerful it is to change the fortune of a family, I was and am interested in doing more,” Finney told MadameNoire.
As part of a tech incubator in 2007, she experienced the preconceived notions and prejudices that people in the technology industry had against women, and especially black women.
“It wasn’t about if my idea was bad or that no one was going to buy it. It had nothing to do with the idea or my skill set,” she admitted. “That idea stuck with me, about how the deck was stacked against us.”
So in 2012, Finney started digitalUNdivided, an organization designed to increase the number of black and Latino women in the technology space, and led its kickoff tentpole event, FOCUS 100. The event brought together technology innovators and investors of color, and featured 50 startup companies with at least one black female founder.
“We searched high and low,” she said. “We send emails to Carnegie Mellon’s outpost in Uganda. We went everywhere and asked everyone, if you know a black woman who has a tech company, send her our way.”
The event, held in early October 2012, was a success, and digitalUNdivided was off and running, with even more events planned for 2013. The organization currently has monthly Meetup groups in New York, Chicago, Detroit, the Bay Area, and will launch DC this year.
DigitalUNdivided is also hosting events in April in Atlanta and Detroit designed to get people started as digital entrepreneurs, not just with full-fledged companies, but also more side project-type activities.
“We believe there are tech opportunities out there, from being a blog to building your own mobile app, that may not be necessarily investment-worthy, but can have a huge impact fundamentally on your life,” Finney explained. “If your family is able to generate $30,000 or $40,000 extra because you wrote a blog, that is a major impact on our community.”