Bari A. Williams: Influencer on Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

The alumna has been named one of the Five Innovative Black Women in Tech to Watch Out For.

By Kay Carney / Photography by Gerry Serrano

Bari A. Williams MBA ’03Bari A. Williams MBA ’03 is the perfect trifecta. She is VP of Legal, Business, and Policy Affairs at All Turtles; a start-up advisor in the tech industry; and a published author in the New York Times, Wired, Fortune, and Fast Company. Her one-two-three punch has resulted in her rapid ascent and success as an influencer on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. She was also named as one of “Five Innovative Black Women in Tech to Watch Out For.”

By the time Williams completed her strategic educational path—BA from UC Berkeley; MBA from Saint Mary’s College; MA from UCLA; and JD from the University of California Hastings College of Law—she was already beginning to make waves, challenge the status quo, and penetrate the proverbial glass ceiling in the world of technology. “Saint Mary’s is actually the reason I chose to attend law school. I took a class in Business Law and it changed my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and the professor, and it ‘sealed the deal’ in my decision to attend law school to become a transactional attorney,” said Williams.

Williams believed that having the blend of law and business in her academic arsenal would serve her well as she anticipated the inherent challenges of being a black woman in the business marketplace.

Having an interest in the technology sector, her first goal was to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable walls of Facebook. Williams joined the legal team at Facebook and quickly ascended to become its senior counsel. She also launched its supplier diversity program to ensure that businesses of color were afforded the opportunity to become vendors and secure contracts with Facebook. Williams then joined StubHub as the head of Business Operations Management for North America. “There are so few black and brown people in tech that I was motivated to address the issue head-on. I’m a walking example of it, literally. It’s like you get a woman, and you get a black person. For me, it is always being hyper-conscious of who isn’t in the room and making sure to advocate for those people,” said Williams. 

Williams discovered that she had both a platform and a public persona to voice her concerns, theories, and opinions about the massive lack of diversity and inclusion in technology. And when she spoke, people listened. “Diversity gets people in the door; inclusion keeps them there,” said Williams.

Williams also recently testified before Congress about the bias of artificial intelligence (AI) in financial services. “My concern is focused on making sure that certain biases are not coded and baked into the software that we’re all using. Congressman Cleaver asked me how AI could be harmful or beneficial. I responded that the problem has the potential to do both. It’s one of those systems where garbage in means garbage out. If you are using historical data sets that are based on creditworthiness and redlining, you’re not going to give black and brown people fair credit limits for mortgages, and you’re not going to give them fair interest rates. It can be changed, but no one is making a concerted effort to do so.”

Williams recently completed her first book, Diversity in the Workplace: Eye-Opening Interviews That Spark Conversation