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Shamina Singh on queer women in tech: ‘We move fast … and get a lot done’

No. 9 on Fast Company’s Queer 50 list, Singh is working on various initiatives at Mastercard, including the company’s recent investment to identify and scale treatments for COVID-19.

Shamina Singh on queer women in tech: ‘We move fast … and get a lot done’
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This story is part of Fast Company‘s first-ever Queer 50 List. Click here to see the full list.

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At the beginning of March, just as the coronavirus was beginning to take hold across the nation, Shamina Singh arrived back in the U.S. from a business trip to Ghana. 

Singh—who is founder and president of the Center for Inclusive Growth, the philanthropic hub of Mastercard, as well as the company’s executive vice president of corporate sustainability—saw a need to take action.

She and the rest of the executive team worked to shepherd Mastercard’s investment of $25 million to join with those of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome. The total, of up to $125 million in seed funding, will go to accelerate identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling up treatments for COVID-19. “We basically were able to work through the weekend, and by Monday, we were in a place to take a resolution to our board,” she says. “We were all unified to try to make this happen.”

Where many companies would deliberate over factors such as risk and legal issues, she says, their team moved swiftly to make a commitment. “Time is our most valuable asset. . . . This speaks to the focus of queer women in tech,” she quips. “We move fast, balance a lot of things, and get a lot of stuff done.”

Singh says Mastercard recognizes its responsibility and the role its technology can play in response and recovery efforts related to COVID-19. “We have also donated close to $2 million to support frontline healthcare workers and most recently doubled down on our commitment to bring another 500 million unbanked people into the digital economy by 2025, raising our total commitment to 1 billion.”

Additionally, Singh mentors many young professionals and is involved with the company’s employee resource group for LGBTQ workers. She believes it’s important for everyone to feel like they can bring their full identity to work. “This idea you are holding something back for whatever reason holds your entire career back,” says Singh, who believes that is one of the biggest challenges underrepresented groups, including LGBTQ professionals, face in advancing their careers.

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“Spending time with other employees and helping with things they care about, not just what I care about, gives them a sense of confidence and belonging,” says Singh. Ultimately, that encourages growth, not just for the company but for its people—and its customers, by extension. “The only way we’re going to achieve inclusive growth is by building a more connected world where everyone has equal access to a better life,” says Singh.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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