Product School

The Importance of Building Real Inclusivity for Black Product Managers


Charleen Parkes

February 22, 2023 - 4 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 4 min read

Earlier this month, we launched our Top Black Product Leaders list, which profiles talent making quite the impression in the Product space. The United States observes Black History Month every February to celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans. This year the theme is "resistance" and we see the curated list as an example of how we can all strengthen, amplify and support one another, as a collective.

Some professionals featured are Annie-Jean Baptiste, Jamal Eason, Leonard Kongshavn and Asia Maria Stewart. This year we have the following newcomers:

  • Amantha Lott, Senior Product Manager at ByteDance

  • Maryanna Quigless, Director of Product at Meta and Co-Founder of Black Product Managers Network

  • Oji Udezue, Head of Product, Twitter

We felt it was important to showcase those from the community making a real difference in Product. At Product School, we actively celebrate a myriad of Product Leaders and invite speakers and instructors to join us in our mission to offer the best Product Management education possible. Such talent speak at our global ProductCon conferences, where we had Martie Burris at Salesforce and Leonard Kongshavn at YouTube speak about The DE&I Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask and Kasha Stewart, Director of Product at Adobe, share how to How to Attract, Hire, and Grow Diverse Product Teams. We’ve also had black Product Leaders form working groups leading projects such as our FPMR report, and they continue to provide the best Product Management training to our students.

We all have a hand in building inclusivity


Diversity, equity and inclusion remain hot topics in the world of Product. To build inclusive products, companies also need to have a diverse workforce. Hiring talent from different backgrounds helps bring a different perspective and challenges bias. Although such decisions are taken from "the top," in the webinar Breaking Into PM & Building Inclusive Products with Google Product Lead, Marily Nika shared why PMs are responsible for building inclusive products, and they are as follows:

  • You are the one that decided the priorities

  • You can say, "We are not ready"

  • You can make a difference at every stage

  • You represent a user within a company

This approach arms PMs with the power to use their influence in every way they can, so imagine the difference when they also represent more diverse backgrounds. Marily later explains, "If we're not inclusive, we're set for failure. We are building products to reach as many people as possible, so non-inclusive products will not reach their full potential."

Spotlight on great initiatives and programs

Google continues to take significant steps to support black talent by showcasing black creators, partnering with Black businesses and tech innovators, hosting its third National Black-Owned Business Summit, and accelerating Black innovation and representation in tech via its initiative Tech Equity Collective.

Two leaders listed this year are part of the Black Product Managers Network, dedicated to supporting underrepresented talent in the industry. The community of diverse Product Leaders are passionate about advancing in their careers whilst increasing representation. What is incredible about this community is that they build products for companies such as Slack, Facebook, Netflix and YouTube between them. Founded by Maryanna Quigless and Jules Walter, they wanted to create a space where others that looked like them could congregate and discuss shared experiences and challenges, and the company grew from there. 

Code-switching refers to someone adjusting their behavior, style, and speech to optimize the comfort of others - with the hope of exchange for fair treatment, quality service, and employment opportunities. Maryanna Quigless explains how the network community didn't need a code to talk about Product, which makes it a "freeing experience." To find out more about their journey, listen to this interview.

The Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) consists of more than 50,000 Black tech professionals that network, connect and help one other grow their careers. Members have access to activities such as summits, mentorships, professional training and more. BPTN was initially conceived to build a community and has since developed to being an important influence regarding the diversification of talent at corporations.

Black Women Talk Tech was created by Esosa Ighodaro, former Bank Executive, and Regina Gwynn who previously worked as a Product Development and Marketing Executive. Their organization supports Black women founders and technologists, with over 2,500 members in its community. They share, “There wasn’t a roadmap to billions designed for us, so we created our own.” 2023 is the 7th year of ‘Roadmaps to Billions’ which they take around different US states and is a must for Black female founders or those aspiring to be.

For more about diversity, equity and inclusion, read Diversity and Inclusion in Product: Why It Matters.

Updated: January 24, 2024

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