Mariah Barber and the conscious practices of DE(A)I

Mariah, could you walk us through your journey with your disability?

I have worked in Public Health for the last ten years in the global health and international development fields. I spent time in the Caribbean and Latin America, even volunteering with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua for a few years.

Why did you decide to get into entrepreneurship?

I remember reading “It’s About Damn Time” by Arlan Hamilton, and it resonated with me hearing from a Black Lesbian on her journey to entrepreneurship. It was the first time I heard the term “venture capital”; for once, I could see myself with these other Silicon Valley business leaders. I’ve always worked in the small business space, but when I discovered that less than 1% of venture capital dollars go to Black women, I decided to put myself in that statistic.

What does Invisible Strengths do differently?

When you’re part of a marginalized group and have a disability, you’re more likely to be underemployed or unemployed. We’re focused on those with invisible disabilities because they’re often overlooked. We don’t turn people away, but we’re focused on those individuals because we know they need a loud voice.

How’d you first get involved with StartOut?

Throughout my life, I’ve searched for groups that I identified with. Places for queer folks, BIPOC folks, disabled ones — and along the way I discovered StartOut.

Where do you see the future of DEAI heading?

I think there’s a lot that still needs to be done in the world of DEAI. There are a lot of disconnections within organizations where they’ll bring in a trainer to talk about LGBTQ+ issues, Black issues, etc. but never address the intersectionality of what it means to be Black and queer or Trans and disabled. We need to improve here greatly.

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StartOut’s mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ entrepreneurs. www.startout.org