Password Required: Increasing Access in the Technology Field

Saturday, September 24
3:15 - 4:30 AM
Bodek Lounge, Houston Hall
About this Session: Diversity in the workplace has become an increasingly discussed topic, especially in white male dominated industries. Hear from organization and academic leaders on how recent trends have affected the demographics of professionals in technology. Presented by the Penn School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Featured Speakers

Brigitte Daniel 

Executive Vice President


Brigitte Daniel is the Executive Vice President of Wilco Electronics Systems, Inc., an African-American privately owned cable operation. For over 30 years, Wilco has specialized in providing affordable cable and technology services to low-income communities in Philadelphia. Brigitte is an appointed member of the FCC’s Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age, a 2011 Eisenhower Fellow, and was recognized in 2014 as one of the “7 Brilliant Women in Tech” according to Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark.

Over the last few years, Ms. Daniel has helped create several substantial private/public partnerships that provide innovative solutions to address the digital divide within communities in the United States, and thus, position Wilco as a digital and broadband leader, specifically working on behalf of disadvantaged communities.

Most recently, Ms. Daniel participated as a featured speaker at Philadelphia Magazine’s 2015 Think Fest and the 2015 TEDx Philadelphia, where she addressed various tech issues that included digital equality, universal access, net neutrality, and innovative methods to diversify the Philadelphia technology sector.

In 2014, Brigitte was featured in Marie Claire magazine in its “Mogul Maintenance” column and following after launched an initiative called Mogulette, a program centered around educating, mentoring and empowering young women of color, between the ages of 20-25 interested in careers in entrepreneurism within technology.

Ms. Daniel is committed to giving back to the community and spends a significant amount of time serving as a Trustee member of the Philadelphia Free Library, a Board Director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and a Founding Board member of the Independence Charter School – West.

Michelle J. Johnson, Ph.D. ENG'89

Assistant Professor & Director
Rehabilitation Robotics Lab
Department of Physical, Medicine, and Rehabilitation in the Perelman School of Medicine
The University of Pennsylvania


Michelle J. Johnson, Ph.D., is currently Assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania. She has a secondary appointment as an Assistant professor in Bioengineering and is a member of the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics graduate group. She has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis in mechatronics, robotics, and design, from Stanford University. She completed a NSF-NATO post-doctoral fellowship at the Advanced Robotics Technology and Systems Laboratory at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Italy. She directs the Rehabilitation Robotic Research and Design Laboratory located at the new Pennsylvania Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine. The lab is affiliated with the GRASP Lab. The lab specializes in the design, development, and therapeutic use of novel, affordable, intelligent robotic assistants for rehabilitation. Dr. Johnson’s research currently focuses on using robotics to understand arm dysfunction and recovery after brain injury.

Arnab Mishra W'96

Vice President
James Brister Society

Arnab is Vice President for Broadsoft, the leading global provider of Unified Communications and Collaboration solutions, where he is responsible for a cross-functional organization focused on product management, marketing, engineering, alliances, and cloud service delivery. Arnab joined Broadsoft as a result of its acquisition of Transera, a company he joined at its founding and where he served as President and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to Transera, Arnab held leadership roles with another technology startup that was acquired by Alcatel. After graduating from Penn, Arnab started his career in finance, working initially as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and then as a venture capital investor at The Beacon Group (now part of JP Morgan Chase & Co.). Arnab holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ramanan Raghavendran ENG'89 W'89 LPS'13



Ramanan Raghavendran is the chairman of Amasia, a venture capital firm that invests in cross-border technology companies. His first job out of Penn was at McKinsey and Company; he has worked at General Atlantic, Insight Venture Partners, and TH Lee Putnam Ventures. Ramanan has a B.S. in Economics, a B.S.E. in Computer Science and Engineering, and a Master of Liberal Arts, all from Penn.

Ramanan co-founded Impact Partners, the first Indian venture philanthropy fund. He is a global trustee of Magic Bus, an NGO that assists at-risk children across India; it was incubated by Impact Partners. Ramanan is a Penn Trustee; an Overseer of the School of Arts and Sciences at Penn; serves on the boards of Penn's two India centers; and is the Global Coordinator of the Penn Alumni Interview Program.

Solomon Steplight ENG'97 GEN'00 WG'05

Girls Who Code


Solomon Steplight is an entrepreneur, tech aficionado and education advocate who has spent his career creating opportunities for minorities and women. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a runningback on the Quakers football team that was undefeated and won back-to-back championship seasons. He earned a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from Penn, then headed to the MIT Media Lab, where he studied how low-income areas could best use technology for advancement.

Steplight went on to lead a number of education software startups. He then turned to public service, managing the finances of both Newark (under Mayor Cory Booker) and Hoboken – improving the latter's credit rating from near junk bond status to AA+. He currently serves as COO and CFO of the national nonprofit Girls Who Code, where he strives to shrink the gender and racial achievement gap in tech. He lives in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and two small children.

Related Articles

Rehabiliation With the Help of Robots

University of Pennsylvania
Written by Heather A. Davis