Black Girls Code founder and CEO Kimberly Bryant suspended from ‘Unfathomable Mess’

The head of an organization that promotes black girls in tech said she was randomly dropped from the group — which she created — earlier this week.

Kimberly Bryant, CEO and founder of Black Girls Code, told The Daily Beast she woke up Tuesday morning to discover she had locked her email and Slack accounts connected to the organization. When she called senior staff to find out what was going on, no one picked up her call.

It was only when she checked her personal email that she saw a notice from Chairman of the Board Heather Hiles saying she had been suspended, effective immediately.

“Press release: it’s 3 days before Christmas and you wake up to find that the organization YOU created and built from the ground up has been taken away by a rogue board without notice,” she says. He tweeted to his more than 112,000 followers.

In a statement sent to The Daily Beast, a “special committee” of the Black Girls Code board said it had placed Bryant on paid administrative leave while it was investigating concerns about the CEO’s conduct. current and former employees raised earlier this year.

It remains unclear how many board members are on the special committee. Person representing at least one member of the board of directors tweeted that she was not informed of Bryant’s suspension and did not vote for it.

Bryant was suspended after months of increasing hardship at the organization, which had transformed over the past decade from a coding camp in the basement of prep school to a large nonprofit with 15 branches across the country. around the world. Bryant admits that there is “some unhealthy stuff” in the organization, but she said senior leadership has already begun to address these issues – starting with hiring workplace culture consultant Karla Monterroso in September.

Monterroso told The Daily Beast she had just started her job with the organization and was shocked to learn Bryant was suspended via Twitter.

“This is an unpredictable mess to be handled in the most unjust way possible for a woman who has been a huge part of building this movement,” she replied in a tweet. .

Monterroso said she recently completed a survey of all current employees and is expected to conduct face-to-face interviews in the coming months. She commended the organization for addressing the needs of a diverse workforce and said she was worried that the news of Bryant’s suspension would “lead more leaders of color into hiding the issues that we’re facing.” they are experiencing internally and continue to not get the support and resources they need to navigate very complex situations. ”

However, some former employees celebrated the decision. One former employee, who asked not to be named, said Bryant maintained a “call-in” culture that made employees feel constantly under attack and had prioritized fundraising over mission expansion. Especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, the employee said, “it looks like the BGC is trying to capitalize on the movement instead of continuing to work.”

“Feeling like this, I don’t want to say ‘I told you right then,’” said the staff member of the suspension, “but it’s great that our feelings, concerns, and experiences that we can relate to. I went through with her as CEO which was confirmed by the board. ”

Emails reviewed by The Daily Beast show tensions are also growing between Bryant and Hiles, who took over the seat provisionally in September. Bryant vehemently opposed Hiles’ nomination and, in a memo to the association. board of directors in October, accusing the chairman of the board of “despising” and “berating” her during a meeting. She also apologized to her board members for not protecting her against Hiles’ alleged attacks.

“Since the founding of this board three years ago, I have sat on many boards with different leadership capacities,” she wrote in the memo. “Our board dynamics are the most dysfunctional, toxic, manipulative and unsupported I have ever encountered in a Board role.”

Earlier this month, Hiles asked Bryant’s chief human resources officer to submit a list of all the organization’s employees and consultants dating back to 2018, as part of a workplace culture review. In a sign of how acrimonious things have become, Bryant responded to the email personally, saying she would have to “come back to advice” before replying. As recently as Monday, the two discussed via email about who is likely to convene a board meeting and whether Hiles could serve as both chairman of the board and interim treasurer.

In a statement sent to The Daily Beast on Thursday, Bryant once again took aim at Hiles, accusing her and unnamed “friends” of being “tak[ing] taking advantage of a grassroots organization like the BGC for their personal gain. ”

“The checks and balances of power and support have been done at BGC, and I have full confidence in the right board of directors / corporate governance,” she wrote. “Nothing about how this was handled is appropriate, and I was not treated fairly or fairly.”

She added: “I hope that the outcome of this conflict will be resolved amicably and that includes the protection of the BGC and all that we have built as a legacy over the past 10 years for the future. Black women and girls.” Black Girls Code founder and CEO Kimberly Bryant suspended from ‘Unfathomable Mess’


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