In praise of Janet Bashen, the 1st African-American woman to hold a patent for a software invention

Stephen Nartey February 07, 2023
Janet Emerson Bashen/Photo credit: Black Living Knowledge

When African-American inventor Janet Emerson Bashen started her business, Bashen Corporation, in 1994, all that the company was running on was her technical know-how and passion. She did not have the funds, so she operated from her home. She had only one client, therefore, the proceeds which came from the business were not enough to take care of the administrative costs, according to ThoughtCo.

One of the recurrent challenges of running the business at the formative stage was keeping taps on her documents and records. But, no matter how watchful she was, some papers slipped out. That was how she birthed the Linkline software in 2001, a web-based application that handled administrative services even out of the office.

Bashen said a lot of work went into designing the application given that it was the first of its kind. Today, Bashen Corporation has expanded its services to include other human resource-related services. As Bashen Corporation’s client base grew, so did Bashen’s influence, making her a market leader in using her own case management software.

She acquired a patent for the software in 2006, making her the first African-American woman to receive a patent for a software invention. She explained that the application was to make things easier in tracking claims and managing business records by eliminating the laborious paperwork associated with running a business.  

Bashen and her company have been applauded nationally for the strides they have made in the software space. She appeared before Congress in May 2000 to testify about the impact of the FTC opinion letter on third-party discrimination probe. Her testimony, including supporting claims by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, led to the change in the laws governing third-party usage of applications.

The Inc. Magazine in October 2002 adjudged Bashen Corporation as one of America’s entrepreneurial growth leaders in its annual ranking of U.S. fastest-growing private companies. The Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce honored Bashen Corporation with the Pinnacle Award in October 2003. The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. also awarded the entity with the coveted Crystal Award for its accomplishments in business.

In 2010, Bashen was celebrated at the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture in Dakar, Senegal. She has also built software to improve diversity in the workplace. One such software is the AAP Advisory, a subsidiary of Bashen Corporation that provides mentorship on best practices for affirmative action in the working environment. Aside from that, the company provides businesses with a support system in their pursuit of diversity in their ecosystem.

Bashen Corporation also has an application that enables small and medium-scale businesses to record and address complaints at the workplace. This tool is called the hotline 1-800Intake.

Bashen was born on February 12, 1957 in Mansfield, Ohio. She grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where her mother was the city’s first Black nurse. She had to deal with racial discrimination throughout her childhood during her formal education at an elementary school.

She furthered her education at Alabama A&M University, a historically black college. She married Steve Bashen and moved to Houston, Texas. She also attended the University of Houston where she graduated with a certificate in legal studies and government. She had her postgraduate education at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration.

Bashen once said that her childhood brush with racial discrimination spurred her interest in social inequality and diversity.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 7, 2023


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