Black Inventor - Janet Emerson Bashen
Janet Emerson Bashen (born February 12, 1957) is an American inventor and entrepreneur and the first African-American woman to hold a patent for a software invention. The patented software, LinkLine, is a web-based application for Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) claims intake and tracking, claims management, and document management. Bashen has been inducted into the Black Inventors Hall of Fame and is the recipient of numerous awards for her business and technological achievements.
Fast Facts: Janet Emerson Bashen
- Known For: Emerson is the first African-American woman to secure a patent for a software invention.
- Also Known As: Janet Emerson
- Born: February 12, 1957 in Mansfield, Ohio
- Education: Alabama A&M University, University of Houston, Rice University
- Awards and Honors: National Association of Negro Women in Business Crystal Award, Black Inventors Hall of Fame, Houston, Texas Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award
- Spouse: Steven Bashen
- Children: Blair Alise Bashen, Drew Alec Bashen
- Notable Quote: “My success and failures make me who I am and who I am is a black woman raised in the south by working-class parents who tried to give me a better life by fostering a fervent commitment to succeed.”
Janet Emerson Bashen was born Janet Emerson on February 12, 1957, in Mansfield, Ohio. She was raised in Huntsville, Alabama, where her mother was the city's first Black nurse. Bashen attended an elementary school that had only recently been integrated, and she faced discrimination throughout her childhood and youth.
After attending Alabama A&M University, a historically Black college, Emerson married Steven Bashen and relocated to Houston, Texas. Years later after achieving her business success, Bashen said that growing up in the South sparked her interest in social inequality and diversity:
“As a black girl growing up in the segregated South, I asked my parents many questions; they didn't have answers. This started a life-long quest of trying to understand our country’s history and struggle with issues of race. This research led me to gender issues and then my passion with EEO grew into a business interest that has evolved, incorporating diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
Bashen earned a degree in legal studies and government from the University of Houston and completed postgraduate studies at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration. She later earned a certificate from Harvard University for her participation in the “Women and Power: Leadership in a New World" program. Bashen also has a master's degree from Tulane Law School, where she studied labor and employment law.
Bashen is the founder, president, and CEO of Bashen Corporation, a leading human resources consulting firm that pioneered end-to-end Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) compliance administration services. Bashen established the company in September 1994, building the business from her home office with no money, only one client, and a fervent commitment to succeed. As the business grew, Bashen began servicing more and more clients, and this demand led her to design her own case management software known as LinkLine. Bashen earned a patent for this tool in 2006, making her the first African-American woman to earn a patent for a software invention. For Bashen, the tool was a way to simplify claims tracking and document management by replacing the cumbersome paper process used by most businesses at the time:
“I came up with the idea in 2001. Not everyone had a cell phone in 2001. I saw that papers in process got lost. There had to be a way to take in complaints—something Web-based and accessible away from the office...We worked months and months on the design. At the same time, I contacted a very large law firm and told the team I wanted to see if I could get a patent because no one was doing this."
Bashen and her company have been recognized nationally for their business achievements. In May 2000, Bashen testified before Congress regarding the effect of the FTC opinion letter on third-party discrimination investigations. Bashen, along with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, were key figures in a debate that resulted in a change in legislation.
In October 2002, Bashen Corporation was named one of America’s entrepreneurial growth leaders by Inc. Magazine in its annual ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, with an increase in sales of 552%. In October 2003, Bashen was given the Pinnacle Award by the Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce. Bashen is also the recipient of the prestigious Crystal Award, presented by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc., for achievement in business. In 2010, she was recognized at the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture in Dakar, Senegal.
Since creating LinkLine, Bashen has developed additional tools to bolster and support diversity in the workplace. One of these is AAP Advisory, a division of Bashen Corporation that offers guidance to clients on best practices for affirmative action in the workplace. The company has an advisory team in place to help businesses achieve diversity within their organizations. Bashen's AAPLink is a software service designed to assist with such diversity efforts. Bashen also runs the hotline 1-800Intake, a tool to help small- and medium-sized businesses receive and manage workplace complaints. Together, this suite of tools enables businesses to ensure they are following the best practices for building diverse and inclusive environments.
Bashen serves on the board of directors for the North Harris Montgomery County Community College District Foundation and chairs the corporate advisory board of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. She is also a board member of PrepProgram, a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing at-risk student-athletes for college. In 2014, she served on the women’s leadership board at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.