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  • She's running AnitaB.org from Chicago

    Brenda Darden Wilkerson is CEO of nonprofit AnitaB.org, whose mission is to get more women into computing.

    Brenda Darden Wilkerson thought she wanted to be a doctor but detoured into a career in tech. Today this former tech educator at Chicago Public Schools is running AnitaB.org, formerly called the Anita Borg Institute. The Silicon Valley nonprofit's mission is to get more women into computing.

    79彩票注册网址On a personal level, Darden Wilkerson's mission is to make sure girls have opportunities she lacked. "When I grew up, computer science wasn't available in my high school," says the 57-year-old CEO, who grew up in Kansas City and has spent her adulthood in Chicago after earning a bachelor's degree in computer science from Northwestern University in 1988. "That's not the way it should happen. If you don't start with it until you get to high school, you're less likely to be successful."

    At CPS, as a senior manager, she developed the CS4All program in 2009, which led to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's policy four years later that computer science become a graduation requirement. The program expanded to schools in San Francisco and New York, in 2016.

    79彩票注册网址Darden Wilkerson left CPS in October to lead AnitaB.org from Chicago. The group is best-known for hosting the Grace Hopper Celebration each year, which draws 20,000 female technologists and hundreds of companies who want to recruit them. The organization has chapters across the country that host regular meetings.

    What's less known is that who moved to Silicon Valley, where she launched a tech group for women in 1994. "She was talking about things 25 years ago that people are just starting to get their heads around," Darden Wilkerson says.

    More: The 2018 Tech 50

    Borg's goal was for women to get to 50 percent of the tech workforce by 2020. It's at most major tech companies. In 2015, only 22 percent of students taking the Advanced Placement computer science exam were girls and only 13 percent were African-American or Latino. "I know firsthand," Darden Wilkerson says, "what it means to be a woman technologist, a black woman technologist in a field that's homogeneous and not very inclusive of people of color. We've got to be willing to talk about our numbers, look at the data and address the problem objectively."

    The #MeToo movement underscores the need for change but also provides momentum. "It adds a sense of urgency—we can't wait for parity," she says. "I'm happy to be in a time where women are being listened to."