“The data will hold us accountable”
We all know that one person. The one who is the leader in the group. She knows all the lyrics to the latest songs, yet still managed to be the first one in the book club to finish the latest novel. She is cool with everyone in town and knows how to skip the line straight to VIP. She is essentially ‘The Plug’. As a Data Journalist, SD is just that. She has her ear to the ground and knows everything that’s happening in the tech world.
An innovative thinker and lover of black culture, SD is essentially the love child of Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin and Bill Gates; taking her skills and marrying the art and science and journalism and technology. She sets the bar higher than most and differentiates herself from other tech professionals with her background in journalism – further reinforced with a Master’s degree from the esteemed Columbia School of Journalism. Though humble and relatable, Dorsey relentlessly continues to operate in a space that is foreign to most black women her age. She’s been featured in publications such as Fast Company, Black Enterprise, and Columbia Journalism Review for her candid conversations on innovation inequality, disparities in funding, and the need to humanize the black innovation economy. She even shares her discoveries in the innovations amongst students at HBCUs; providing detailed case studies on the amount of patents and types of intellectual property that are produced at HBCUs. Her work in this field has raised the questions of how funding to HBCUs is allocated, how and when students are mentored, and the resources that are readily available for them to aid in the creation of new business opportunities that could change their lives.
‘The Unapologetic Genius’
SD unapologetically holds space where many may consider shaky ground. As a black woman in the tech space with a growing company, she is often tasked with amplifying the voices of people who are often lost in the shuffle. As a data journalist, Dorsey sets out to produce content that humanizes the black experience, while also uncovering some of the racial bias that exists in the corporate world today. As a Seattle native, Dorsey spent her younger years trolling around companies like Microsoft, taking part in internships that exposed her to programming, coding, and most importantly black mentors. In her whole, there was always that presence of the Aunties and Uncles who were creating their own lane and building businesses that created financial stability for their families. She smiles as she recalls working in her Aunt’s hair salon as a young girl. But later on in life, the bright eyed optimist realized that not everyone had been exposed to the “Black Excellence” that she experienced. Furthermore, many seemed uninterested in getting to know that experience or the people driving the innovation.
BIk stories are usually about quotas and compliance instead of triumph and innovation. SD has worked diligently to change that narrative. Her work uncovers the normalcies that many educated black people are accustomed to that may seem foreign to their non-black counterparts. We are more that grief and suffering. We are also intellectuals who are killing it in our respective industries. Dorsey recalls how many media outlets rejected her pitches for stories about blacks in technology and other startups. The white male dominated industry did not see the importance of telling these stories, and didn’t see these as relatable headlines. They struggled to go beyond the concept of sharing regular content that highlighted the success of black professionals. To many of the decision makers at these publications, the only “normal” recounting of a black story would be one that discusses the struggles of our community and the affirmative action efforts that followed. But Dorsey, like many of her peers, knew that there was so much more to the story of black professionals in the technology and startup worlds. Bringing light to these stories would produce a more inclusive culture that warranted the need for black people to have equal pay and an equal voice. It would lead to a revolutionary accountability system that most certainly would be televised.
“Who gets to decide what genius comes from….What it looks like…How it shapes the world” ~Sherrell Dorsey
In 2016 SD launched The Plug, a daily tech newsletter that curated news on black founders and innovators. It has since grown to include stories that investigate and report on trends that are relevant to the black community. The growing newsletter provides information on career opportunities, funding, and more recently on companies who are committed to a culture that facilities diversity and inclusion. Dorsey says she realized just how important her work was when the protests of racial injustice began to take center stage in the media in early 2020. Dorsey and her team quickly sprung into action creating lists of companies who had committed (and followed through) on changing their company’s goals of creating a more inclusive ecosystem. It was important for her to highlight companies that went above and beyond a statement on Twitter or changing their logo to support the racial justice movement, and actually stepped up to the plate financially and morally – pledging money for equity and hiring a diverse staff. As someone who has already raised over $500,000 in capital in just four years, Dorsey knows the bad-ass fearless attitude that comes with forging a new lane of accountability. She knows that her self-proclaimed inner hustler is the key to growing her team and expanding her impact. The effects of the 2020 racial justice movement and the coronavirus pandemic have undoubtedly ignited a fire in her that will take an Army to extinguish. Her eyes tell the story of a woman who is determined to outdo herself and take her hungry tribe with her along the way.
For more on Sherrell Dorsey and her growing list of innovations, visit her website at www.sherrelldorsey.com