Hiles' comments are the latest in a still developing fight between Black Girls Code’s board and the nonprofit’s recently ousted founder Kimberly Bryant. The battle includes a number of known lawsuits, including three from Bryant -- one of which is federal -- and one from the board, also a federal claim. As the number of lawsuits have risen and months have passed by, Hiles has remained quiet. Until now.
“Up until now I have chosen not to respond because I wanted to remain focused,” Hiles said in a press briefing. “However it has reached a point where I do feel like I must speak out.”
Bryant, who was indefinitely suspended from BGC in December 2021, then said that Hiles, interim board chair and founder of edtech company Pathbrite, led the suspension efforts “without fair investigation or substantiated allegations.” Allegations from employees — supported by multiple interviews that TechCrunch conducted with BGC sources — included Bryant misgendering a staff member and creating a toxic work environment. Bryant has denied these claims multiple times, saying that the ultimate investigation into her did not turn up any information that supported these allegations.
Earlier this month, Bryant was officially fired. Bryant released a statement about her removal that described the board’s move as an “unfortunate culmination of a hostile takeover” by Hiles. The same statement alleges that Hiles wants to “gain control over the over $30 million in donated philanthropic funds.”
In the press briefing, Hiles called Bryant’s claims “false and malicious,” adding that she is a volunteer board member -- which would mean that she doesn't get paid for her work on the BGC board.
“I have never tried to manage or access any of the BGC assets, nor have I ever tried to direct the investment of BGC assets toward any entity venture - including one that would personally have benefitted me,” Hiles added in a LinkedIn post after the briefing. “I have never taken nor expected a dime in compensation.”
In the same post, Hiles addressed Bryant’s claim that they connected BGC to Udemy as a partner so that Udemy, which Hiles serves as a board member for, would financially benefit. Hiles claims that Udemy was interested in providing services to BGC for no cost, which they think would have increased revenue and access for girls in the organization.
In the press briefing, Hiles did address Bryant’s early claim that she was suspended from the company “by a rogue board with no notification.”
“The reason we did that was she was obstructing and preventing an external third party from actually conducting the investigation into workplace complaints,” Hiles said during the call. “And we couldn't think of or find another way to have an investigation take place while she was still in that role… so we felt like we had no other options.” Hiles later added that Bryant had “plenty of heads-up and awareness of what was going on.”
Bryant responded to Hiles' new comments in a text message to TechCrunch, noting the three lawsuits:
I have no intention to litigate this case in the court of public opinion. I intend to bring these issues to a court of law and exercise my first amendment rights to due process based on facts and evidence not opinion or personal attacks. My work and legacy stands on its own now and forever and I am beyond grateful for the overwhelming support from the community who have both supported and lifted me up throughout this journey.
In the most recent lawsuit on the matter, filed Monday, BGC alleges that its domains — including blackgirlscode.com, blackgirlscode.org, blackgirlscode.site and blackgirlscode.net — were "hijacked" by Bryant. All domains redirect to saveblackgirlscode.com as of the time of publication. Bryant, meanwhile, said that the latest allegations set against her are false and that ownership of domains has been under her control since 2011.
As for the future of Black Girls Code and if a rebrand is in the works, Hiles said that “all options are on the table.” As Black Girls Code still does not have control over the blackgirlscode.com domain website, it's unclear whether the nonprofit will have to rebrand or pursue other options.
"It’s been really disappointing to see this degrade so much," Hiles said. "I will point out that over time, several other board members have resigned in our last year of the board. And so it’s made the pool of people who are willing to stay accountable for the operations and the future of Black Girls Code just a smaller group." Hiles declined to comment on if any board members have resigned since Bryant’s ouster.
Hiles declined to provide further comment on if there’s a chief executive search underway, but did say that donor support has remained “steadfast.”