Kathryn A. Finney, Doctor of Humane Letters
Kathryn A. Finney — visionary entrepreneur, tireless advocate for women in technology, passionate disruptor and creator — you use your voice to amplify the voices of others, to empower black and Latina women entrepreneurs who can lead us all into a world of new possibilities.
When you started your blog, Budget Fashionista, in 2003, many people didn’t even know what a blog was, but you built it into a lifestyle brand and media company. It was then, when you went to move forward with your next venture, that you encountered the obstacles that would inform the next chapter of your life.
You joined an incubator for tech startups and experienced firsthand the prejudices that many in the industry held against women and minorities. You were told point blank that no one had ever heard of a venture capitalist writing a check to a black woman before.
But you refused to be invisible. In 2013 you founded Digitalundivided, a social enterprise that finds, supports and trains black and Latina women tech entrepreneurs. You have created the primary pipeline bringing black and Latina women into innovation-focused entrepreneurship in the United States.
“Often as women,” you said, “we’re told to make ourselves small. That the fear of failure is somehow better than the joy of success.” But you give entrepreneurs the courage, the tools and the funding to step into the ring.
You have raised more than 25 million dollars of investments in their companies, and helped create the Harriet Fund and Harriet Angels to provide primary investment to exceptional black and Latina women entrepreneurs. Because of your work, now there are investors who write checks to black women.
As a research scientist, you took the lead and produced #ProjectDiane, a report which quantified the position of black women in the tech industry and reframed the conversation around diversity in the industry. Diversity does have a primary role in innovation after all, as you have emphasized, “You can’t have innovation without diversity, because people who occupy multiple identities have amazing ideas that you haven’t thought of before.”
Your work has attracted attention from hundreds of media outlets and won numerous honors, including a Champion of Change Award from the White House. Last year you launched an innovation center in Atlanta, Georgia, quite fittingly named BIG. Your accelerator and incubator programs are leading high-potential companies founded by women of color through the startup pipeline.
For your enduring commitment to empowering black and Latina women entrepreneurs, for your passionate advocacy for diversity as the germ of innovation, and for shining your light as a beacon to others, Mount Holyoke College is proud to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.