An Evening With Lesbians Who Tech

August 23, 2013

On August 22, 2013, there was a happy hour hosted in the basement of The Dalloway located in SoHo by a group called Lesbians Who Tech. The purpose of this group is to have gatherings of lesbians who work in and around the technology industry to network. There was no formality to this event. Women simply walked into the dimly lit bar, ordered a drink, and started engaging with whoever was standing beside them. Before long, The Dalloway was packed.

Most of these women expressed their concerns right away about the lack of women and lesbians working in the technology field. Katie Sweetman is a graphic and web designer for a company that helps out nonprofit organizations. Although her workspace is very accepting, she stresses it is important “to be able to work at a place where it’s no big deal I’m gay.”

On the other hand, Gwynna Smith who works at the Department of Education for New York City puts more emphasis on the significance of women, in general, joining fields like technology. She says, “It’s important for women to be in technology so that in the future, if this girl wants to go do STEM [science, technology, engineering, math], she has a spot. We have to have mentors for them.”

Sarah Beauge argues, “Any industry where not many women are represented needs women because it builds a sense of community.” Ms. Beauge works in financial consulting, but she recognizes that this applies to any field lacking females.

Additionally, Sarah Lewis sees a lack of female representation even within the queer community. “LGBT groups are mostly represented by white gay men who are just a small part of the community, which is multi-faceted.” Ms. Lewis is a business analyst and project manager for New York Life Insurance. She insists that diversity is essential to creating safe spaces for everyone, and it appears that women are lacking that support within the technology field.

Many in The Dalloway had several theories as to why so many women avoid careers in technology, but it all came down to one factor: fear.

Nicole Murray, a developer and system administrator for the Mount Sinai health system, says, “I don’t think men are pushing women out. I think women are too scared.”

Ms. Murray mentions she did not study anything related to technology in college because she did not think she would excel at it. It was only after she graduated that she stumbled across a job opportunity in Information Technology. She claims she was just at the right place, at the right time. In fact, most of the women in this article are working in technology by chance and without having any background in it.

Moreover, many of these women describe their office environments as being male-dominated. Because of that fact, Danielle Lee, an Associate Web Developer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, thinks this should give women even more reason to work in technology. “Everything is online now. Society is constructed through online devices which are mainly controlled by straight men.”

The Vice President of Technology at Goldman Sachs, Karen Chang, adds to this point saying, “Products are delivered by people who do technology,” and that calls for innovation, which is not being done by women. In order to convince women to join the tech industry in the future, “You have to demystify what it means to do technology. Make it more accessible.”

The more that these women speak about their industry, the easier it is to see how passionate they are about closing the gender gap they witness every day. So on this night, they are happy to meet with other like-minded women doing their best to shake up the technology industry.

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Baratunde Thurston. That’s What’s Up.

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Baratunde Thurston spoke at the journalism school last week. Do I really have to say more? Have you heard of this guy?! He’s fantastic. He’s from DC, went to Harvard, was a consultant for some time, then a digital director at The Onion, all while doing stand-up comedy on the side, and now he has started his own company called Cultivated Wit.

He also wrote the New York Times bestseller, How To Be Black. That book has been on my reading list for ages and it shames me that I have not gotten to it yet. He talked about a lot of things ranging from his own family history, where he thinks the future of journalism is heading, the influence of technology on journalism, and of course, race.

Naturally, I found him inspiring because he manages to do what he loves without abandoning topics that interest him. In his case, he’s interested in technology and race. And he’s able to weave those subjects into his journalism in a humorous and enlightening way that actually makes people want to read his work.

His quick bullet points on what’s happening/changing in journalism:

  • Ubiquitous creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Information surplus
  • Trust deficit
  • Constant change
  • Distribution of good ideas
  • Experimentation is basically free

It’s a really exciting time in journalism and it’s great to hear someone like him talk about it rather than some news anchor. The guy sitting at a news desk in front of the camera is what I think of as being old, traditional journalism. This new digital surge of energy flowing into the journalism industry sounds way more exciting to me and frankly, it looks like it’s going to be way more diverse too. Both in terms of gender and race.

At the end of Baratunde’s talk, one guy came up to the microphone and basically asked what can white people do to combat racism. It was kind of hilarious because I’m pretty sure all of us in the audience just turned to Baratunde thinking, “Yaaay he’s gonna solve racism!”

Out of the many suggestions he had, one part stuck out to me and that’s when he said to get a black friend (or really any minority). And actually be friends with them. In the sense that you trust and respect them enough to share your ideas and what you’re feeling. Essentially, talk about race with them. I know I have white friends who don’t ever talk to me about race. Even if it comes up casually in conversation, it’s always brushed aside quickly for a more neutral subject, like how crazy Miley Cyrus is.

Besides that, Baratunde wrote a blog post specifically about this called “Ways White People of Goodwill (And Anyone Else) Can Help End Racism”. Super useful.

On that note, I’m going to end this with a clip of Key and Peele‘s stand-up comedy. Because sometimes you just need two half black/half white guys to wrap up a random post about Baratunde Thurston, journalism, digital media, and race.