I had an amazing time at the 3rd annual Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco. Women from all over came together at the Castro Theater to share their common interest of Technology. Prior to this event, I thought I was a pretty good networker, but this event was networking on steroids. Women from all levels in their career were in attendance. College student to executive leadership, all on the same playing field. Everyone had access to everyone. There were no imaginary boundaries and nothing was off limits. It was like a giant Tech Conference/ Urban party. There was music, dancing, start-up pitches, Converse, and amazing hair styles.
Lesbian’s Who Tech was probably one of the best recruiting tech conferences I have EVER been too! Last year, BuzzFeed did a review of the conference and said “If every tech conference were like Lesbians Who Tech, Tech would be a much better place.” After attending this year, I would have to agree. It was simply amazing. I was so proud of our community and the responsibility we are taking for ourselves and others.
Sessions weren’t just technical, they were emotional, others focused on soft skills and self development and some were loud and in your face on issues of inequality within intersectionality within the community. The organizations founder really won my respect when she stood on stage and said that LGBT people of color, and racial inequality needed to become part of the gay agenda. These women impressed me with their technical expertise and their desire to open doors for more women just like me.
I was really proud of the tech companies that showed up to support and recruit talent at this years event. Google, Twitter, IBM, Yelp, and Amazon were some of the more recognizable names and sponsors of the event. When the Silicon Valley announced that they had an issue with hiring, developing, and retaining women in the tech industry, I was concerned that little would be done, but to see all of these companies show up at a Lesbian tech conference, gave me a little hope that doors were being opened for us.
There were so many great speakers. I will try to share a few that really stood out to me. A speaker named Perry Eising talked about “No Experience Necessary” and Perry’s mother’s journey to entering the tech world as a computer operator, because she saw an ad that said “no experience necessary.” Later, they talked about Perry’s mother landing a job with IBM as a programmer. They shared moments of her mother continuing to learn new skills on the job and working really hard to continue learning. Perry credited their mother with installing a passion for technology and teaching others without experience or formal training. Perry is an instructor at Epicodus where they teaching coding to adults with no experience.
Tiffany Dockery of Amazon spoke on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome. This was a very powerful message and ended with a standing ovation. Tiffany touched on a feeling that many of us have once we are hired with a progressive tech company we start to self doubt and feel less than worthy. She made sure to let the audience know they
were worthy and even had them recite that a couple times. What was powerful about Tiffany’s presentation was how easy it was to relate to her. You felt like Tiffany was one of your friends and she immediately made you feel safe and comfortable with her. She carefully crafted with words and slides to empower you. She reveled that most of the time these negative thoughts are being place in our heads, by ourselves, but we aren’t alone in this. She recommended being kinder to ourself, seeking a mentor and being a mentor to someone else. She gave the audience a prayer by Sarah Hagi, to help women gain their confidence. “Lord give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” She was absolutely a conference favorite.
My favorite session during the event was none other than Edie Windsor’s live interview. If you don’t know who Edie Windsor is, I will let Wikipedia give you a quick overview. According to Wikipedia, she is an American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist and a former technology manager at IBM. She was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court of the United States case, United States v. Windsor, which successfully overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and was considered a significant legal victory for the same-sex marriage movement in the United States. I personally credit Edie Windsor for taking on the fight that lead to myself and millions more being able to share the same civil liberty to marry as most of our friends, family, and co workers. Edie shared the stage with her attorney Roberta Kaplan. Roberta shared her coming out story and the story of how she met Leah and Edie. Edie shared tidbits of her amazing love story, her time at IBM, and the defeat of DOMA. I fell even more in love with her. After Edie’s live interview, I had the opportunity to spend one minute with her and Roberta Kaplan during the book signing. Edie was all smiles, I thanked her for her fight that allowed me to have this freedom. I told her that I was proud to be an IBMer like her. At that moment, her eyes watered and she kissed my hand. She told me that she was proud of me and that she loved IBM.
IBM is a partner sponsor of Lesbians Who Tech and that makes me very proud to be a part of this amazing company. Kimberly Messer, who is the Business Development Executive for LGBT for North America ran point with making sure that IBMers took part in this event. She also lead a break out session on the Importance of Soft Skills in a super Techy world. Joanna Pena-Bickley, Creative Officer, IBM Interactive Experience, was so amazing on stage when speaking about the advancements that Watson has made and how he will super charge humans in the fields of Technology, Medicine, Automotive, and so many more. I met so many Lesbian and Queer women who worked at IBM as an intern, professional, management, and executive level roles. We all were connecting because of our love of technology and the connection of our community. IBM constantly encourages this and goes out of its way to make sure that we have out women in leadership and strong pipelines of LGBT talent. I am very proud to have attended this event and represented IBM. I truly am proud to be a apart of the LGBT community and proud to be an IBMer.
If you are Lesbian, a Queer Woman, or an Ally, I encourage you to attend a summit. Please visit lesbianswhotech.org to find out more about the organizations and how you can attend and participate.