Kamala and Kylie meeting US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith
We recently attended the
Lesbians Who Tech summit, an event that brings together the community of queer* women working in technology.
Organisations such as this are leading in the inclusivity and diversity space. They help us learn how we can fulfil our commitment to making our digital and technology teams more representative of the general population and our users.
The event was unlike any other tech conference we'd been to before, and we thought we'd share our observations on what made it stand out.
1. Women attending
Most tech conferences we've gone to look like this; majoritively white and male.
The Lesbians Who Tech conference looked like this; a community of queer women in technology with diverse backgrounds
2. Women speaking
Leanne Pittsford founded Lesbians Who Tech organisation to test a theory. Every tech conference she went to was really lacking in both female and queer representation. Beginning to think she might be the only queer woman in tech, Leanne started Lesbians Who Tech merely to find out if anyone would show up; thankfully they did and LWT is now an international community.
3. People of colour speaking
In both the United States and the UK there is a strong lack of ethnic diversity in the technology industry, with representation of BAME individuals at less than 5% of workers in the UK tech sector. Companies such as the BBC and the organisation Colorintech are making great efforts to resolve this. The Lesbians Who Tech Summit intentionally makes sure that 50% of their speakers are people of colour
Networking at the Lesbians Who Tech conference was really relaxed and friendly. We quickly made some new friends from Boston based company Hubspot; one of the best tech companies for diversity
A hula hooping competition brought light-hearted fun to the day
A strong shoe-game from attendees
5. Political activists
Debra Cleaver, who founded the organisation Vote.org encouraging US citizens to register to vote
6. Preferred pronoun badges available on arrival
Lesbians Who Tech aims to be inclusive of everyone, and one way they did this was to provide pronoun badges on arrival making it easier for people to be referred to by their preferred pronoun.
7. The US Chief Technology Officer moonwalking
8. (really) senior sponsorship
Barack Obama is an ally of Lesbians Who Tech, having held lots of their events at The White House
9. Coding scholarships
The Lesbians Who Tech community run a scholarship programme supporting LGBTQ* women to learn how to code
10. People who have changed the world
Edie was one of the first female senior systems programmers at IBM, and reached the highest level technical position at the company. Edie was also the lead plaintiff on the landmark civil rights case that led to the legalisation of same sex marriage in the United States.
Thank you to everyone at the conference for making us feel so welcome, and especially to Leanne Pittsford for creating this awesome community!
We would love to hear what your teams are doing to create an open and inclusive culture, let us know in the comments below or by tweeting
*The LGBT charity Stonewall provides a useful
definition of queer. Many people at the conference identify as queer, as do the authors of this blogpost.