Last night, a few hundred people filled MLK Library for DCTech Meetup’s Women in Tech edition. After pitches from six women-led startups in the DC region, an all-female panel of local women in tech discussed the ways through which we can impact the membership ratio of the DC tech community. The Meetup was inspired by dozens of organizations who offer free and low-cost events and opportunities for women and minorities in the DC Metro area.
While this recap barely skims the surface of the panel session, here are 9 ways we, as members of the DC Tech community, can encourage diversity and practice safe and respectful working environments:
- Rise Together
“We don’t do anything alone. We can’t do anything good alone. Ultimately what we need is shared values. We’re influenced by people who believe in a fair and just democracy and they bring [this mentality] to the tech space. We have a collective of badass women in town– folks who put in ton of hours to organize this community. The reality is we must rise together and pool resources to create change.” – Aliya Rahman, Program Director, Code for Progress
- Find a mentor.
“Praise is a powerful motivator. When you make it public, they’re more likely to share information and help you. A lot of people are willing to help when you ask thoughtful questions. Everyone is sharing knowledge and trying to understand the same problems.” – Melody Kramer, Digital Strategist & Associate Editor, NPR
- Be a mentor.
“It’s essential to try to be a mentor as well as find a mentor. Sometimes we focus on one angle or the other. Sometimes we do both and forget about how far we’ve come. If you’re still early in your career, there’s still someone you can mentor along the way.” – Ashleigh Axios, VP, AIGA
- Be Proactive.
“Support, challenge and push each other but also be proactive about it. Recommend her for that keynote or that job. Go to that company and encourage her to apply. Go to a conference. We need to change the image of that programmer who is a pasty white dude hanging out in his garage.” – Bonnie Bogle, COO, Mapbox
- Initiate Change & Change Your Story.
“There are actual material barriers to access and opportunities. Some communities do not have computers. We can do things with policy to change things. What would it be like to require Computer Science in schools? Second, the the story and narrative we tell about ourselves is the hardest to change. Stop calling yourself a non-technical person. People self select themselves out of opportunities to come to events, volunteer and be heard. Change that.” – Rahman
- Branch Out of Your Networks.
“If someone is always considered the experts, they are always the same type of person who are invited [to speak or be profiled]. Use LinkedIn and go outside of your network and find other people. It takes you out of your network for sourcing articles if you’re a journalist, […] if you’re trying to source conferences […] or if you’re trying to hire a diverse pool of applicants. It exposes you to different people you may not know.” – Kramer
- Push Diversity & Change Recruitment.
“We’re creating a culture to learn and come into leadership positions. We see this in the DC Tech community. We see push. If you dont see it, you can change or break it. One-third of our team is involved in recruiting. We talk about our culture, being inclusive and talk about the fact we want women to work with us and encourage them to apply. Seven of the last 11 technical hires are women. The coolest part is they immediately get involved in the recruiting process so we have access to their networks and resources so it becomes a cycle. This process hard to start but it will start to create change.” – Bogle
- Use Twitter to Connect with People.
“It’s an easy medium to connect with people. Favoriting can be more powerful than responding. Follow people whose jobs you want. Be aware of what’s happening on Twitter. A lot of communities have hashtags to talk about new jobs- follow those. People like to be praised. Praise them. Ask them to grab a cup of coffee with you. If they say no, who cares?” – Kramer
“There are so many organizations, non-profits in the area who have different experiences than you do.” You can gain a lot of insight by being there and being helpful. – Axios
While last night’s Meetup focused on women in tech, building diversity in tech is not limited to gender equality. As Aliya Rahman shared, “Coding is about empathy– learning how to communicate with someone different than you.” We should aim to address and be inclusive of sexuality, gender, class, ethnicity and everything in between.
You, who came to the Meetup or you, who saw this article in the Twittersphere (or elsewhere) are humans who love technology and this industry. It is crucial to have your support. Having open, honest conversations will contribute to better work environments for all of us. Whether it’s through recruitment tactics or by simply changing the description of Meetup events to be more inclusive, we can all make changes to our daily habits. The event was incredibly insightful, but one Meetup is not enough. Let’s continue the conversation and give a voice to those underrepresented in our community. Let’s inspire this change and speak up instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
Panelists from Left to Right: Shana Glenzer (SocialRadar), Aliya Rahman (Code for Progress), Ashleigh Axios (AIGA), Bonnie Bogle (MapBox) & Melody Kramer (NPR)
DCTech Meetup typically runs every other month and convenes 800+ innovators gather to see demos, launch products and meet their future co-founders, partners and funders. See future Meetups here.