Clearly, the future is in tech, with most businesses implementing tech in some way, even if we don’t realize it. Our personal lives are propelled by technology as well, from new health care options to home entertainment systems.
With all this innovation comes a need for more diverse skills, experiences and perspectives at every level of the tech workforce. If tech is our frontier, that future should be open to all and created by people from diverse backgrounds and with unique experiences. Making this future a reality requires that we continue closing the gender gap in tech. According to a 2018 Deloitte report, women only made up about 25% of technology workers, but half of the U.S. population.
And we see this ring true in a lot of our work. We are a woman-owned firm that sits squarely in the tech sector, but it’s no secret that tech is a male-dominated field. However, there are some deeply inspiring women who are looking to change this.
For Women’s History Month, we’re amplifying a small selection of incredible women who are changing that statistic. Not only are their careers inspiring, but they have also created organizations focused on educating and empowering girls and women to become leaders in the tech industry. Their actions and examples are helping women cement their integral roles in building tomorrow’s world.
Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code
You may have heard of Girls Who Code, but what about the woman behind it? Reshma Saujani made history as the first Indian American woman to run for U.S. Congress. While visiting local schools, she was inspired to start the international nonprofit because she noticed a gender gap in computing classes.
This is critical work because the gender gap in computing is getting worse and girls are most likely to drop off from learning computer science between the ages of 13-17. Girls Who Code offers clubs, summer programs and college loops to not only teach girls to code but help them thrive in the technology industry.
But this second part is no easy feat. Even when women have the skills, they still face setbacks. Saujani said her perspective has changed since 2020 when she felt “on top of the world” with Girls Who Code. In a recent Washington Post opinion piece, she details how the pandemic presents “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to update the workplace with women in mind. She argues that even though 86% of women in the workforce will likely become mothers, they are still expected to balance their careers and the job of motherhood — often without help.
“Having it all was always a euphemism for doing it all,” Saujani said.
That’s why she also founded the Marshall Plan for Moms and advocates for the “value of women’s labor in and out of the home.”
Lauren Buitta, Girl Security
Just a glance at today’s news will convince anyone of the need for good national security. That is why it employs so many people across so many sectors, but Lauren Buitta took a closer look at the industry and noticed the stark underrepresentation of women in national security.
In response, she created Girl Security, a nonprofit “preparing girls, women, and gender minorities for national security through equity-informed learning, transitional high school-to-college training, and relationship-based mentoring.”
Buitta recognized that the problem goes beyond simply improving the numbers. National security shapes the country in drastic ways, and it needs an intersectional approach if it is going to serve all people.
The Glen Echo Group is pleased to support this work through the generosity of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative. Girl Security is opening pathways for historically underrepresented and underserved populations and creating leaders ready to make decisions that shape the future. It’s been awesome to have a front-row seat to their work!
Ellen Pao, Project Include
You might have heard about Ellen Pao’s 2015 gender discrimination court case against her former employer which has since inspired many to speak out against sexism in tech. It also motivated her to co-found Project Include, a nonprofit aiming to create more diverse workplaces. Project Include believes everyone should have a fair chance to succeed in tech.
Pao has bylines in many notable publications, such as the New York Times and WIRED. From an opinion piece for TIME magazine:
“Meaningful change requires a complete reset. We need new paths and untested solutions. We need people to use their privilege not to take opportunities from others without it, but to share opportunities or step aside and give them to others. We need people who caused and enabled problems to make room for new leaders who will take risks to actually fix the problems.”
Dr. Joy Buolamwini, Algorithmic Justice League
Unlocking our phones using facial recognition is something we do multiple times a day without a second thought. But we need to be on alert about unchecked and unregulated AI, particularly as it is increasingly involved in everything from healthcare to criminal justice.
Described as a “poet of code,” Dr. Joy Buolamwini and her organization, Algorithmic Justice League, recognize AI’s possible harms and biases and seek to mitigate them by combining art and research. AI is built by humans and therefore inherits our biases, but Dr. Buolamwini’s work could change that.
Follow Buolamwini’s journey as an ethical AI advocate in “Coded Bias: A Documentary,” currently streaming on Netflix.
Ayumi Moore Aoki, Women in Tech
Though seemingly living a perfect life as a “high-powered communications director,” Ayumi Moore Aoki felt suffocated. She taught herself to code, seeking the freedom digital skills could give her. Later, she was angered to learn that the gender gap in tech was actually getting worse and was determined to create a change.
“Products and services are being developed based on the perspective of only one half of the population – men. Helping women and girls to advance is not only good for society, and ethical, but smart and good for the economy.”
Aoki founded Women in Tech, a nonprofit with significant global reach working to achieve gender equity and empower women in STEM. Their goal is to empower five million women and girls by 2030. To do this, Women in Tech strives to create “impact through action” and focuses on four areas: education, enterprise, social inclusion and advocacy.
At the Glen Echo Group, we’re always learning from these amazing women. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with some of them, and we can’t wait to see the world that they — and the young girls and women they inspire — help create.
—With research and contributions by Sydney Wright