It has been called the new ‘Humans of New York‘ after the photo blog series that documents stories of everyday New Yorkers. But the ‘Women of Silicon Valley’ blog is so much more than just an interesting and diverse story-telling platform, it is a vital resource for women who are grossly underrepresented in the tech industry.
The series was started by Lea Coligado, a Computer Science student at Stanford University who shares in an introduction video on the website that states women represent only 12% of the software industry today. Yikes!
“I’m starting Women of Silicon Valley because I want to celebrate these living—and thriving—examples of female success, these rebels against the numbers and the gender norms. I want women who are sitting on the fence about Computer Science to get as inspired as I was by these role models, and hopefully, to see that at its heart tech is exciting, immensely powerful and so, so worth it,” she says.
“These women are unique. [They are the] amazing few who’ve persevered through creepy, belittling, and outright sexist adversity to carve out their own niche, to affect billions of consumers through their engineering and entrepreneurship. In the same way Humans provides snapshots into the lives of New Yorkers, Women of Silicon Valley is meant to showcase the lives of females working in the heart of the tech industry.”
The series is still in its infancy, but has already attracted a considerable following, emphasizing the need for such a community of women. While the female to male ratio in tech is abysmally low, as evidenced by the number of diversity reports released from some of the major tech companies in 2014, it seems women want to be represented in all areas and the best way to do that is to encourage each other, and show the younger generation that women in tech DO exist!
The WOSV Facebook page is a great place to see all the new interviews that are being posted in the series and get a glimpse of how women are contributing to this industry.
It’s not hard to see how women are going to continue making an impact in tech, all you have to do is take a step back and look at how the younger generation of girls are learning about coding. The movement to empower tweens and teens about computer science is growing every day, and there is evidence everywhere you look that this is not going to be just a male-dominated arena for very long.
In February, more than 70 girls from 5 cities around the world came together for an international hack-a-thon event called ‘Ignite: Women Fueling Science & Technology’ created by Silicon Valley company Global Fund For Women where the theme of the event was to use coding to find solutions to long-standing social problems. The winners of the event were a group of girls from Brazil aged 18-22 who created an app called ‘Não Me Calo’ which in Portuguese means ‘I Will Not Shut Up’.
It is best described as the Yelp for ranking public spaces based on their safety for women and girls. They use mapping technology to identify and rank venues that allow gender-based abuse and harassment to persist and hope this innovative app will create useful data for governments, authorities and business owners to better serve the half of the population that is disproportionately affected by street harassment and violence.
This hack-a-thon is certainly not the only event or organization tapping into a generation that was largely left behind in the tech boom of yesteryear. In fact today is it estimated there over 100 million unfilled STEM jobs in the United States alone, showing employers and businesses that this industry is growing so fast, they cannot afford to exclude girls from the tech world any longer.
It is these examples that will eventually change the ratio, but for now the number remains pitiful. These girls are also examples of how they are allowing tech spaces to cater to specific women’s issues and even solve them in ways other industries cannot.
When you look throughout history, the women have always been part of tech (think Ada Lovelace – the woman regarded as the world’s first computer programmer), but largely ignored by society because of its male dominance today. When you think of tech geniuses, billionaires and whizz-kids, names like Gates, Zuckerberg, Dorsey etc come to mind. But the conversation is slowly starting to change with names like Sandberg and Miller being added to the mix in a powerful way.
A new documentary called ‘Code: Debugging the Gender Gap‘ directed, produced and edited by three women, Robin Hauser Reynolds, Staci Hartman and Christie Herring, seeks to explore reasons for the gender gap and the digital divide.
One of the women featured in the film who is also part of the WOSV blog series is Tracey Chou, software engineer and tech lead at Pinterest.
“I’ve started to understand that there are structural problems within the field and that these external indignities have nothing to do with my personal shortcomings, I am less hard on myself. I’ve come to better appreciate and celebrate my own successes,” she shared with WOSV.
Also featured in ‘Code’ is Megan Smith, the first female Chief Technology Officer at the White House.
“Tech jobs are growing three times faster than our colleges are producing computer science graduates. By 2020 there will be one million unfilled software engineer jobs in the USA. ‘Code’ aims to inspire change in mindsets, in the educational system, in startup culture, and the way women see themselves in the field of coding,” says a press release about the documentary.
“It takes about a generation to change a stereotype. As director of ‘Code’ I hope to inspire our audience to begin that change. Change in the way our school system values computer science education, the way we think of a programmer, and change in the way women and people of color view themselves in the tech field. I hope the documentary will encourage more people in tech to join the movement to make the industry more inclusive and thus more efficient for all,” said director Robin Hauser Reynolds.
It is about the movement for inclusivity. The merits speak for themselves, instead we need to emphasize how gender should not be part of the equation when it comes to filling jobs. The awesome Women of Silicon Valley blog series, and the ‘Code’ documentary are a vital voice in the movement to make tech accessible for all.
While the numbers remain low, our hopes are high simply because there are people actively working to change the ratio. Take a look at the trailer for ‘Code: Debugging The Gender Gap’ below and see how the women in tech today are changing the world: