Serena Williams is all about breaking down barriers, particularly seeing black people inhabit and work in industries that have not traditionally coveted African Americans.
In an as-told-to interview with Wired magazine, the tennis icon opened up about her interests in technology and the work she's doing to get more black people to consider careers in software engineering and technology. She's hoping that tech companies see the value in attracting underrepresented groups.
"In the NFL, they have something called the Rooney rule. It says that teams have to interview minority candidates for senior jobs. It's a rule that companies in Silicon Valley are starting to follow, too, and that's great. But we need to see more women and people of different colors and nationalities in tech," Williams argued.
Williams thinks that a whole new world will open up when more black people learn the skills to design technology.
"Nothing like Black Girls Code existed when I was growing up. (And I know what it's like to be interested in a field where the other kids don't look like you.) So I think we're making progress. But we can keep working even more to increase equality—whether it's making sure to interview black candidates for tech jobs or standing up to cyberbullying or making sure that our technology is designed by all kinds of people," Williams explained.
Williams commented on the Black Lives Matter movement and said that she's all for it.
"So to those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. Don't let those trolls stop you. We've been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too (see "Get Up, Stand Up")," she said, referencing Bob Marley's iconic song about fighting oppression.
Williams thinks that social justice can be tied to technology, and she explained how she incorporates it into her daily life: "Back in 2008, when I was competing in the U.S. Open, I would keep little 'match books,' where I'd write affirmations to myself and read them during matches. It worked pretty well. But before long I found an even better way to inspire myself: I started using affirmations as the passwords to my phone and my computer. (No, I'm not going to tell you what my current affirmation is!) You should try it. You'll be surprised how many times a day you log in and have an opportunity to trigger that positivity. I love that I can use technology that way."
Williams is on to something. It seems that software engineering—like sports and hip-hop before it—is certainly the next opportunity for African Americans to make a big splash, both culturally and financially.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.