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Black Girls Code’s founder says she was unaware of an investigation at the nonprofit and her removal was ‘unconscionable’

Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code.

Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for Glamour

  • Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, told Insider her suspension came out of the blue.
  • She accused a board member of ‘unconscionable’ behavior over the situation.
  • A former employee said that Bryant’s leadership style was impeding growth.

Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, told Insider that her suspension as leader of the respected non-profit came out of the blue.

On Monday, the board held a meeting in which it discussed usual business, Bryant said in a statement. After the meeting, board member Heather Hiles, the board’s interim chair, asked to speak separately with Bryant. Bryant had another meeting to attend, she said, so she asked Hiles if they could meet after the holidays.

The next day, Tuesday, she lost access to her work email, Bryant said, and received a letter from Hiles on her personal email account notifying her that she had been suspended and that the board had appointed an interim executive director. 

Bryant announced the situation on Tuesday in a tweet.

A spokesperson for the nonprofit’s board confirmed to Insider that Bryant had been placed on paid, administrative leave and removed from leadership pending an investigation about Bryant’s conduct. The board had formed a special committee in October to investigate complaints about her leadership style, the spokesperson said.

Bryant said she was aware that the special committee had been formed to examine the non-profit’s work culture and had approved payment for an attorney, but said she had never gotten notification that a formal investigation of complaints against her was taking place.

“It would have been nice, professional, and even courteous to apprise me of what the specific allegations are, because they have not been articulated to me in any clear format,” she said.

Bryant said she was not informed of an impending board vote about her and accused Hiles of disregarding standard procedures for nonprofit governance with the intent to push her out.

A spokesperson for Black Girls Code’s board declined to comment in response to Bryant’s statement.

Tensions had been mounting between Bryant and Hiles since Hiles took over as interim chair in September, the Daily Beast’s Emily Shugerman reported, citing emails between the two. Bryant strongly opposed Hiles’ nomination as chair in an email, alleging that Hiles had been verbally disrespectful to Bryant, and describing the board as “dysfunctional,” the Daily Beast reported.

Insider spoke with several former staffers who criticized Bryant’s management style, believing that it was ultimately impeding the organization’s growth.

“If Kimberly can just allow herself to be the face and let someone else handle the business side, the organization can grow phenomenally,” Charles Anderson, a former Black Girls Code employee told Insider, adding that Bryant “chose a phenomenal board.

“These were all legit professionals,” Anderson said of the board.

By December 8, the founder and board were heading for a showdown. Bryant said that’s when she learned from her chief of staff that Hiles had requested information on the nonprofit’s personnel dating back to 2017, as part of the work culture analysis. Bryant responded that she would check with the nonprofit’s counsel.

“It is unconscionable for people like Ms. Hiles and her cronies to take advantage of a grassroots organization like BGC for their own personal gain,” Bryant said in her statement.

Black Girls Code’s board previously said in a statement to Insider that it was investigating “serious allegations of workplace impropriety” but did not provide further details.

The Oakland, California, nonprofit has chapters in 16 cities, has had more than 30,000 participants, and is sponsored by a who’s who in corporate America including Google, IBM, Capital One, Macy’s, others, according to the organization.

“My hope is that the outcome of this conflict will resolve amicably and include protecting BGC and all that we have built as a legacy over the last 10 years for Black women and girls,” she added.

Are you an insider with insight to share? Contact April Joyner at [email protected] or on Signal at 646-287-8761 from a nonwork device. Open DMs on Twitter @aprjoy.

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