Saturday, April 18, 2015

The US’s most marginalized are disrupting power structures by learning how to code

The US’s most marginalized are disrupting power structures by learning how to code:

LGBT and other communities are using coding to get ahead.
Teagan Widmer graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 with a master’s degree in theatre pedagogy. Having struggled to find work with only a bachelor’s in English literature from Pacific Union College, she had hoped that her graduate degree might finally land her steady employment. It didn’t.

After graduation, Widmer moved back home to northern California. “I was working for a community benefit district in the downtown area of San Francisco,” Widmer tells Quartz. “I made $14.50 an hour. Most of that went to rent.”


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“Learning to code literally saved my life.”(Teagan Widmer)

But it was in the tech-heavy Bay Area that Widmer discovered a skill that would change her life—she learned how to code, mainly through online tutorials. “Overall the process took one year,” Widmer says. “I did it pretty intensively; I didn’t do a lot else besides work and practice programming.”

The hard work paid off quickly.

With her newly procured coding skills, Widmer, a trans woman, began brainstorming ways she could help alleviate a common problem in the transgender community: finding a public restroom to use without having to fear harm or discrimination. Inspired to act, Widmer created Restroom Refuge, an app that already has identified close to 7,000 bathrooms that transgender and genderqueer people can use safely.


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(Restroom Refuge/Teagan Widmer)

Media coverage of the app put Widmer herself on the map, and helped her land an interview for an internship at FutureAdvisor, an online investment manager. She got the position, which soon led to a full-time job at a salary of $90,000.

Just a year after learning to code, Widmer tells Quartz, “I’m a software engineer. I’m the point person for management as we plan the future of the product and schedule work for the developers to execute on.” Now, she says, “I’m doing things I thought I would never be able to do. I’m saving for retirement, I’m saving for surgery, and I’m making progress on my student loans.”

In the US, members of the LGBT community, especially LGBT women, have higher rates of poverty than their straight counterparts. Widmer sees coding as one possible antidote.

“I have some ideas to turn Refuge into a bigger organization and maybe a nonprofit down the road,” she says. “But ultimately I’d like to fuse my love for teaching with my love for software engineering and help others learning to program—thereby economically empowering a generation of queer and trans folk.”

And she could be onto something.

Coding is already being used to help other marginalized communities around the world. In Indonesia, where according to the World Bank nearly half of all households “remain clustered around the national poverty line,” 90% of high school and university students want to learn to code “because they think coding is important for their future careers,” the Wall Street Journal reported in March, citing a survey conducted by Microsoft.  [U]ltimately I’d like to fuse my love for teaching with my love for software engineering and help others learning to program—thereby economically empowering a generation of queer and trans folk.

Coding workshops targeting the LGBT community, like the TransH4ck hackathon and speaker series and Mozilla’s Project Ascend, have similar aspirations for their intended audience. The organization Lesbians Who Tech recently hosted a conference that brought together 1,200 queer women from across the US. The event’s size is itself a testament to the growing number of LGBT people in the field.

A lot of people have found that learning to code makes them more marketable. To Widmer, it’s been more than that. “Learning to code changed my life,” she says.

Follow Eliel on Twitter at @elielcruz. We welcome your comments at

LiveAction Vice President of Product Strategy to Participate in Women-in-Tech Panels at Tech in Motion and IC3 IT Cloud Computing Conference

LiveAction Vice President of Product Strategy to Participate in Women-in-Tech Panels at Tech in Motion and IC3 IT Cloud Computing Conference: SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--LiveAction's Ulrica de Fort-Menares, VP of product strategy, will be speaking on women-in-tech panels at Tech in Motion, April 23, San Francisco, and IC3 IT Cloud Computing, April 17, Seattle.

Women Engineering Executives from Cisco Conduct Leadership Panel at IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC)

Women Engineering Executives from Cisco Conduct Leadership Panel at IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC):

Cisco, as part of the 2015 Women In Engineering International Leadership Conference partner community seeking to support and advance women in tech, will bring to life a lively study of innovation in SDN, cloud, Internet of Everything and DevNet with an all-female leadership panel at the second annual IEEE WIE International Leadership Conference April 23-25, 2015, in San Jose, CA. Panelists Liz Centoni (VP, U.S.), Yvette Kanouff (SVP, U.K.), Monique Morrow (CTO, Swiss), Susie Wee (VP, CTO, U.S.), Elaine Cheong (TLE, U.S.) and Vinod Peris (VP, U.S.) are just a few of the leaders at Cisco helping to shape the world through innovation at work and at play.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ellen Pao's best piece of advice for professional women who feel like they're hitting a glass ceiling

Ellen Pao's best piece of advice for professional women who feel like they're hitting a glass ceiling:

ellen pao

About a week after a jury ruled against Ellen Pao in a gender discrimination case she brought against VC firm Kleiner Perkins, she's promising to continue fighting bias in Silicon Valley.

"You need to work through these [gender] issues because they are here and they’re not going to go away," Pao told the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Elder.

Pao, currently the interim CEO of Reddit, says that even though the three years she spent embroiled in a legal battle were tough, her efforts were worth it. And she has a message for other women who feel they're hitting a glass ceiling in their industries: Have confidence and do not get discouraged.

"I would tell [another woman] to have confidence in herself, to know that what she’s doing is important, and to always remember not to let other people change her view of herself," Pao told Elder.

Pao first sued Kleiner Perkins for failing to promote her because she was a woman, and then for firing her in retaliation after she sued. Over the course of the legal proceedings, the defense put Pao's personality on trial just as much as her actions, digging into her private texts and emails, airing details of an affair with a KPCB partner, and ultimately characterizing her as "passive-aggressive, disloyal, and generally ineffective."

"It’s not my personality to be out there, and I’m also by nature a very private person, so for me it was a little bit scary," Pao said. "I’m glad I did it. But it was hard."

After the trial a group of female tech worked pooled together to place a full-page ad in The Palo Alto Daily Post that read simply, "Thanks Ellen."

Pao says she's also received in-person support from other women who thanked her and described their own experiences with gender-based discrimination. The current status quo in Silicon Valley sees much fewer women than men in tech overall, but there's an even greater dearth of women in venture capital. That can cause a "boys club" mentality and a culture where women get criticized for either being too timid or too aggressive.

"You have this needle that you have to thread, and sometimes it feels like there’s no hole in the needle," Pao told Elder. "From what I’ve heard from women, they do feel like there’s no way to win. They can’t be aggressive and get this opportunity without being treated like they’ve done something wrong."

Moving forward, Pao plans to focus on her role at Reddit. Here are some of the changes she's made at the company so far:

  • Removed the salary negotiations from the hiring process, citing studies that women don't fare as well as men
  • Brought in diversity consultant Freada Kapor Klein to advise the company
  • Now asks every job candidate what they think about diversity. Any who doesn't support creating a racially diverse, gender-balanced team won't get hired. 
  • Hired more community managers to monitor Reddit's consent and helping it craft new policies on user behavior, in the wake of the giant leak of nude celebrity photos that ran rampant on Reddit. Pao took over several months after the leak and has since also guided the site through banning "revenge porn." 
SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley is 'incredibly white and male' and there's a 'sort of pride' about that fact, says Silicon Valley culture reporter

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do






Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, feminist hero, eliminates salary negotiations for new employees

Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, feminist hero, eliminates salary negotiations for new employees:

Ellen Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit, has seen women struggle with salary negotiations. So she's eliminating money talk from the company's hiring process

In her first interview since losing the landmark Silicon Valley trial, Pao told The Wall Street Journal that she has eliminated salary negotiations from the hiring process at Reddit, where she currently serves as interim CEO

The reason, according to Pao, is that women often can't win salary talks

"Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate. So as part of our recruiting process, we don’t negotiate with candidates," Pao said in the interview. "We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation." Read more...

More about Reddit, Business, Startups, and Ellen Pao

Want More Women Working in Tech? Let Them Stay Home

Want More Women Working in Tech? Let Them Stay Home:

Want More Women Working in Tech? Let Them Stay Home
PowerToFly connects working moms to tech jobs that allow for remote work as a way to close the industry's gender gap.

The post Want More Women Working in Tech? Let Them Stay Home appeared first on WIRED.






Friday, April 3, 2015

STEMinist Profile: Charlotte Robin, PhD student

Full profile here: STEMinist Profile: Charlotte Robin, PhD student:


Charlotte Robin

PhD student

University of Liverpool

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I am naturally a very practical person, and have always enjoyed making things – from finger painting to flat-pack furniture! When I was younger, I had no intentions of pursuing a career in STEM, it just kind of happened!

I enjoyed doing research during my degree, but had no idea that it could be a career. When I was offered a job as a research assistant for a veterinary charity I was thrilled, and that was when I realised I wanted to be an epidemiologist. Since then I have worked on numerous research projects, done another Master’s degree and have just started my PhD in Public Health. So really, I am just at the beginning of my career!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?I like to think that all the research projects I have worked on, or have helped with have contributed to improving the health and welfare of the animal or human population in some way. However, I am most proud of my PhD project. I am part of a new Health Protection Research Unit, focusing on emerging zoonotic infections. As a PhD student, it’s great to be part of such a talented and supportive group and to be doing research in such an exciting area. The Institute of Infection and Global Health is also an Athena SWAN bronze award holder, so it’s the perfect environment for a young, female academic such as myself to be working in.

Ellen Pao lost, but women still won

Full story here: Ellen Pao lost, but women still won:

Victory from defeat.
On Mar. 27, Ellen Pao lost her gender discrimination trial against her former employer, high-profile venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. While the court may have ruled against her, it’s important not to lose sight of how important this case is in a broader context.

Despite its outsized impact on the US economy, the world of venture capitalists remains largely removed from scrutiny and accountability. Working women are sure to have recognized many of the episodes described in Pao’s case from personal experiences and experiences of their friends.

Yet despite the depressing familiarity, there are still few mechanisms to push for fairer treatment beyond a lawsuit.

Pao sued Kleiner Perkins, in part, to advance women in the clubby world of venture capital. “If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it,” she said. One could argue she sacrificed her right to privacy, allowed her life to be examined and picked over in open court in order to reveal how sexism operates in the plutocratic venture capital world and, by extension, Silicon Valley. Women really owe Ellen Pao a huge gratitude for taking such a public stance.

The details of the alleged discrimination have been abundantly analyzed elsewhere, but some of the highlights include men-only ski trips and dinners, segregated so women wouldn’t “kill the buzz.” While a jury of her peers may have disagreed, these types of adolescent attitudes are a clear reflection of an industry that itself is in adolescence. Mix in what Pao argued was a lack of basic human-resource functions, and you have the perfect environment for discrimination.

The good news is, Ellen Pao’s sacrifice may not ultimately have been made in vain. Newly filed gender discrimination lawsuits against Facebook and Twitter suggest her lawsuit may serve as a catalyst for women who realize their gender is holding them back.

Interestingly, American corporations might be wise to learn from their foreign competitions. Outside the US, some countries are taking a much more aggressive stance to advance women, indicating an increased awareness of the important role female leadership has to play in greater economic growth and lower economic volatility. On Mar. 6, Germany passed legislation requiring its largest companies to fill at least 30 percent of board seats with women by next year. This quota will rise to 50 percent in 2018.

Special Section: Female-Run Venture Capital Funds Alter the Status Quo

Special Section: Female-Run Venture Capital Funds Alter the Status Quo: A number of new investment firms started by women are bringing fresh perspectives, and funding appetites, to a field long dominated by





Original enclosures:

What it took these four women to get into robotics | ReadWrite

What it took these four women to get into robotics | ReadWrite:


Insight from Melonie Wise, Tessa Lau, Cynthia Breazeal, and Louise Poubel


Original enclosures:

Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and others are growing fast, making a real difference

Full story here: Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and others are growing fast, making a real difference:


Girls Who Code, a program that promotes more participation by women in computer science programs and careers, started modestly in New York City in 2012. Recently, however, the organization founded by Reshma Saujani has seen some pretty incredible growth, according to its 2014 year end report.

Since its inception, the nonprofit has given more than 3,000 high school-aged girls computer coding instruction, with a goal of helping them develop functional code-based products, such as mobile video games and other software applications. The organization has also expanded its programs to 24 cities and seen a huge jump in the number of girls participating in its programs from 2013 to 2014. Starting in 2012 with 20 students, Girls Who Code’s two-week Summer Immersion program had 152 participants in 2013 and 375 in 2014. Its after-school club programs are even more popular; in 2014, close to 2,200 girls took part in the the after school program, up from 600 participants the year before.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM

The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM:


By now, we’ve all heard about the low numbers of American women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Some argue it’s a pipeline issue – that if we can interest more young girls in STEM subjects, the issue will resolve itself over time. But that’s not convincing. After all, the percentage of women in computer science has actually decreased since 1991.
Another theory is that women are choosing to forgo careers in STEM to attain better work-family balance—rather than being pushed out by bias. But evidence for that is also thin. Several new studies add to the growing body of evidence that documents the role of gender bias in driving women out of science careers. A 2012 randomized, double-blind study gave science faculty at research-intensive universities the application materials of a fictitious student randomly assigned a male or female name, and found that both male and female faculty rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the woman with identical application materials. A 2014 study found that both men and women were twice as likely to hire a man for a job that required math.
My own new research, co-authored with Kathrine W. Phillips and Erika V. Hall, also indicates that bias, not pipeline issues or personal choices, pushes women out of science – and that bias plays out differently depending on a woman’s race or ethnicity.