Kimberly Bryant was the CEO and cofounder of non-profit organization Black Girls Cod. She discovered that she couldn’t access her work email on the morning of December 21st. She was “suspended indefinitely” by the board of directors of the nonprofit organization she started a decade ago.
“Press release: It’s three days before Christmas, and you awake to find that the organization you built and managed from the ground up has been removed by a rogue Board with no notification,” Bryant wrote in a tweet. Two days later Bryant made a formal response to TechCrunch to Bryant’s temporary removal.
The statement read, “First and foremost, as the founder and CEO of Black Girls Code, I am 100% certain that I have not done anything illegal, unethical, or immoral.” “As a founder who built this organization from scratch, her blood, sweat, tears, and sweat, this fight is for justice and women in leadership. Bryant stated that none of the allegations were substantiated and no investigation was initiated. The entire process was dishonest, illegal, and unfair.
TechCrunch later received a statement from the Black Girls Code board, stating that they had established a special committee to evaluate and review complaints about Bryant’s conduct by former and current employees. Bryant was placed on paid administrative leave by the board last week to ensure that a fair and thorough review process took place. Bryant was also put on special committee for reviewing the complaints.
Bryant stated that interim board chair Heather Hiles was the one who decided to suspend Bryant “without fair investigation and substantiated allegations.” Hiles also said that Pathbrite founder Pathbrite had been the one to blame for the decision. TechCrunch asked Hiles to clarify. Hiles replied in a text message saying that the board has a fiduciary obligation to safeguard the organization’s well-being. I can confirm that recent activities were a result of fulfilling that responsibility.”
The board declined to comment through a spokesperson on whether there was an impending investigation, Bryant’s suspension process and if Bryant was given notice before being placed on leave. The board declined to comment on the timeframe for the ongoing review.
Even though she authorized a payment to an ad-hoc committee of the board to pay an attorney to investigate, the founder claimed that there has not been an active investigation. In a statement, the board stated that it had formed a special committee to “review and evaluate the complaints, and determine what, or if any, action should take with respect to these concerns.” This committee is entirely composed of BCG board members.
Black Girls Code was founded by Bryant in February 2011, to address the tech opportunity gap for Black girls and women. It claims that the nonprofit has created 15 chapters across the U.S. and internationally, hosting technology workshops and hackathons for more than 30,000 Black girls.
According to senior sources, the interim CEO is Sofia Mohammed, Black Girl Code’s vice-president of programming. TechCrunch reached Mohammed but has not received a response.
‘A mixture of emotions’
TechCrunch spoke to five former employees of Black Girls Code anonymously, out of concern about retaliation regarding the current state of affairs at BGC. After a summer of high turnover, they confirmed that the board had decided to investigate the company’s culture. Many people cited Bryant as the reason for their separation.
Bryant said that the turnover was due to distributed work. “Now, as many organizations navigate the pandemic, there was a lot turnover in the past year, mostly due to people we hired in 2020 while they were virtual. In a text message, she responded to the allegations by saying that we were not exempted from the “great resignation”.
Bryant’s leadership style was blamed for employee churn, according to two former employees who worked there as leaders for months. She would repeatedly criticize managers in meetings and call them incompetent, encouraging them to “go back in school” if they weren’t able to complete a task.
Bryant denied saying this. She cited Bryant’s decision to hire consultants to help her create a compensation policy that would weigh years of experience and degrees over the number of degrees. “I don’t value a degree as a techie in an area where not everyone requires it.
Bryant’s recurring phrase, Bryant said, was “you’re failing to live up to my expectations of how you should be”, even though Bryant declined to grant them access to many productivity tools. Salesforce was not available to new employees, which, they claimed, prevented them accessing important information about the community that they were responsible for, such as names and ages, and their history. One employee described the absence of an onboarding process and Bryant’s inability to participate in daily operations, in order to make media appearances.
One former employee said that people stayed because they found the workarounds. “Someone suggested that it was in your best interest to keep off her radar. If you can figure out how you can execute your work even without specific systems, you would be fine.” Bryant stated that BGC had just completed a five year strategy plan with Bridgespan Group that addressed operational concerns. This plan included strategies about which databases employees could access. The founder denied having control over who has access to what.
An employee who recently resigned expressed mixed emotions.
They said, “We know how it is perceived that Black people are being taken down.” “But that’s not what we want to achieve. We want an organization that can continue to grow our work.
They said that they had given up on the mission despite their belief and they were able to leave the company partially due to the advice of their therapist. They added that working for an organization that tries to change the way you are valued, treated and appreciated is a special kind of betrayal.
Bryant stated in a deleted tweet that he was driven, had high expectations and is a perfectionist. Bryant said that Bryant has never misused, misappropriated or abused any of the funds I created for the organization I love. Don’t believe it. It is false.
Balances and checks
Bryant denied the allegations of former employees, but current employees close to the matter claim that the founder hired Edgility Consulting to conduct a salary survey and address staff concerns. TechCrunch obtained a document that said the consultation began in June and was completed in December. The results were not made public.
Karla Monterroso is an executive coach who told TechCrunch that Bryant hired them in September 2021 following complaints about Bryant’s nonprofit’s culture.
Monterroso did not give details of her conversations with Bryant but she stated that they spoke for 90 minutes about the culture and operational challenges ahead. Monterroso wasn’t contacted prior to the leadership change. The board is currently conducting an ongoing review and has not confirmed if it has hired an outside firm, reviewed the salary structures, or brought in a consultant to help with board matters.
Monterroso stated that he believes there are many imperfect leaders who try to be their best. However, he believed that there is a systemic complexity emerging for leaders of color. It’s not about one person or organization, but about the conditions in which our leaders and teams can succeed with dignity intact.
Bryant was still employed by the nonprofit at the time of publication but does not have access her company e mail or internal platforms. Bryant claims that Bryant told current employees and contractors that they would be fired if Bryant communicated with them.
Bryant stated in writing that “checks and balances have been established at BGC and I believe in proper board/corporate Governance.” There are no appropriate procedures in this matter, and I was not treated fair or justice.