Digital Diversity: ‘Queer Women Who Tech’ Summit Opens Doors To Tech

June 24, 2014  |  

For many women, the technology world can be both a rewarding and cutthroat terrain. It’s no secret that the high-growth industry is run by white, straight males (many hailing from Ivy League institutions), which makes it challenging—if not impossible—to thrive in today’s ecosystem.

However, there’s been an immense movement to change the current stats and fill the tech-talent pipeline with more women. One organization is working to do that and create an inclusive environment for queer women in tech. Founded in December 2002 by Leanne Pittsford, Lesbians Who Tech works to build visibility and the number of queer women in tech and tech-related fields, as well as connect women to socially aware organizations.

Several months after the inaugural Lesbians Who Tech Summit, which gathered 800 queer women and allies, took place in San Francisco, it arrived in New York. More than 140 Indiegogo contributors and the leadership Pittsford helped bring the summit to the Big Apple last weekend. Taking place from June 20-22, attendees gathered at NYU Law School’s Tishman Auditorium to hear speakers such as digitalundivided’s Kathryn Finney, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani and Politini co-hosts and power couple Aisha and Danielle Moodie-Mills address gender inequality in the tech industry.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world run by men, “ said Saujani, during her “Social Good Pitch.” That sentiment was reflected among attendees and speakers, and why Lesbians Who Tech’s mission is crucial to changing the way women in tech are perceived.

The diversity data from big tech firms like Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo reveal the lack of African American, Latino and women across the board, but there’s no official reporting of discrimination or numbers acknowledging the LGBTQ community within these firms. But it’s that very reason the Queer Women Who Tech Summit is in existence and working to shift the paradigm.

Guests and speakers both received major takeaways from Queer Women Who Tech.

“This is really essential, and I’m glad that this conference is happening,” says Cheyenne Cook, audio visual content manager at Politini. “We really need to focus on the intersectionality of everyone’s identities and how they shape everything that we do… I’m glad this conference exists because it opens up conversations to talk about women, queer women, to create change and innovation in technology.”

Maureen Erokwu, founder and CEO of Vosmap, who pitched her company that is bringing Google’s Street View technology to businesses across the country, echoed the summit’s value. “I’d like to see more women of color in tech,” says Erokwu. “To increase the level of involvement, we’d simply have to get involved and support these very initiatives that promote the influence of women in tech.” The entrepreneur made sure to connect with attendees, speakers and sponsors, and walked away with meaningful connections, and even secured a meeting with a leading NYC-based tech organization.

Techies also had time to connect during the summit’s after party, sponsored by Gawker, brunch on Saturday, a day-long hackathon held at Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn and a sailing excursion on the Hudson River.

You can follow the movement on Facebook or Twitter (@lesbiantech) or peruse through the hashtag, #lwtsummit. For more, check out the Lesbians Who Tech website.

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