Women In Comms

WiCipedia: The Women Helping Women Edition

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Kristen Bell releases hilarious "Pinksourcing" video; girls from Oakland to Senegal learn to code; digital tools help new moms acclimate when going back to work; and more.

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  • Talking about women in tech feels much more relevant when we can put a face to a name, and even more meaningful when that face has their entire career ahead of them. It's blatantly apparent that not everyone starts off with the same career opportunities, and this interview in The Huffington Post with Haile Shavers, a computer science student at UC Berkeley, illustrates what that reality looks like. Growing up in inner-city Oakland, Calif., Shavers was surrounded by tech yet it was not part of her world. Though the other city by the bay feels infiltrated by tech companies looking for cheaper office space these days, tech workers are still predominantly male and white, which as a young African American woman, Shavers is decidedly not. Luckily, she had access to programs that exposed her to coding as a teenager, and was recently a summer intern at NBC. As large cities across the US become gentrified with tech workers, companies need to remember to incorporate the existing communities as well. As a billboard in Downtown Oakland reads, "As Oakland becomes more tech, let's ensure tech becomes more Oakland." (See AT&T Exec: It's Time to Stop Fearing Tech and More Women in Tech Is Critically Important.)

  • Kristen Bell has done it again, and this time it's not even about sloths. The Huffington Post delivered the celebrity's tongue-in-cheek "Pinksourcing" video, which puts a humorous spin on inequality of all kinds -- from low pay to lacking maternity leave -- in the workplace. Part of the "Celebs Have Issues" series at HuffPo, Bell walks around a non-descript yet techy office calling all of the female employees by the same name and telling employers that it doesn't make sense to outsource work to other countries when women are available on the cheap. Plus, they smell good! Witty, sarcastic and bound to insult at least a few, Bell hits the issue on the head and (hopefully) raises awareness about this critical issue. See below for the full video. (See Women in Tech Need Role Models, Confidence and WiCipedia: Parental Progress & Parity Payoffs.)

  • Digital health monitoring -- from step trackers on a cellphone to implanted glucose readers -- have been a huge market in the past few years. At TechCrunch Disrupt last week, where this illuminating photo was taken, the focus was on digital health tools specifically for women, reports MobiHealthNews.com. The article quotes TechCrunch moderator Sarah Buhr, who says, "This is the first time ever at TechCrunch Disrupt that we've been able to talk about women's reproductive health, which is a huge issue that affects, you know, half of the population." Focused mostly around pregnancy, breastfeeding and infant health, new technologies have the power to help women track not only weight and basic health, but nearly everything that is going on in their bodies. (See WiCipedia: Trump's Family Leave Fail & Hostility at Apple.)

    These tools can also play a part when new moms go back to work. Janica Alvarez, CEO and co-founder of Naya Health, maker of a forthcoming smart breast pump, said, "Eighty percent of women in the US start breastfeeding, but there is a steep decline when they go back to work, because there are not a lot of accommodations in the workplace ... Getting to the data, two things: with the pump alone, we can start tracking user behavior. We know how much mom pumps, when she pumps and we can start informing her about how to best improve her experience." Anything that helps women balance a family and a career is worth looking into in our book. (See GSMA Catches Flack for MWC Babygate .)

  • When we think of women in tech, Senegal isn't the first place that comes to mind. This week, The Philadelphia Tribune told the story of Youma Fall, a 24-year-old Senegalese woman who started a program that teaches women to code. The idea came about as Fall, who works at a mobile banking startup and mentors girls who are interested in technology, was considering the shortage of school supplies in her country, from textbooks all the way to a basic pencil. If a child can't study, then they'll have limited access to creating a successful career, and in the culturally traditional and predominantly Muslim country, girls need to be able to support themselves financially to better their lives. Fall, among other innovative and dedicated young women, is setting a new standard for what women can do in West Africa: "We need models. We need other women to say it's possible for us to reach new levels." (See WiCipedia: Equality, Fashion & Dads , WiCipedia: Girl Bosses, Returnships & 'Women Don't Require Fixing' and SAP Tackles Digital Skills Gap in Africa.)

  • As stories of discrimination and sexism slowly emerge from large and respectable tech companies such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Facebook , we haven't heard much about the experience of women who work at social media giant Twitter Inc. , and that might be because working conditions are a bit rosier for women in the land of tiny blue birds. Brisbane Times interviewed ex-Twitter executive Kirstine Stewart, who had a lot of say about making working conditions easier for women, along with her stance on journalists and public figures relaying sexism to the masses. (See WiCipedia: Should Men Be Included? & Olympians Face Discrimination and WiCipedia: Hogrammers, Cleavage & Finding a Niche.)

    On the topic of life at Twitter, Stewart said, "The social media site launched a 'gender-neutral' parental leave, guaranteeing any parent up to 20 weeks of fully paid time off. It also helped new mums who were forced to travel for work with a program that shipped their breast milk home ... We did a lot of unconscious bias training ... so that when people go through the process of hiring and promoting they recognize what their biases are." Surprisingly, Stewart is not a fan of hiring quotas, but she's very much in favor of women supporting other women. "There's a sense of, 'there can only be one'. But we need to support each other and make sure we have women taking up every opportunity that is available." (See WiCipedia: Parental Progress & Parity Payoffs and WiCipedia: Faulty Feminism, Worthy Women & Peculiar Perks.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading

  • Mitch Wagner 9/26/2016 | 9:07:07 PM
    Re: A long time ago, we used to be friends I'm weirded out that you were a teen-ager when Veronica Mars was on the air. So we're even. 

    Our own Sarah Thomas gave me the hairy eyeball once when I said I'm a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

    I watched both shows (and am rewatching Buffy) with my wife, who enjoys them as much as I do. Does that make me more creepy, or less?

    BTW, Rob Thomas, who created VERONICA MARS, has a new series, iZombie, which is in the zombie genre rather than teen/private eye but it hits many of the same themes. Also, I don't know if you saw the VERONICA MARS movie, but it was terrific -- up to the standards of the series. 
    ErynLeavens 9/26/2016 | 7:19:01 PM
    Re: Bias training Sarah, I wonder if there's a difference in how Silicon Valley companies deal with gender vs. SF companies. Twitter doesn't have an SV presence as far as I know, only downtown SF. They're only 30 mins away (or 3 hours, depending on traffic...) but pretty different culturally.

    As for the unconscious biases, do you think that's kindof a free pass if someone has good intentions but inadvertantly makes a sexist statement? This actually reminds me of everything that's going on with police shootings and race now. How do we get rid of unconscious biases that aren't necessarily rooted in hate, but are just cultural, or how we were raised, or completely unintentional? Are we as responsible for those actions and comments as someone who is acting out of actual sexism, homophobia, or racism? Big questions.
    ErynLeavens 9/26/2016 | 7:14:17 PM
    Re: Bias training Such a great billboard. And just saw that Google is creating an Oakland campus to create more diversity, so I guess they got the message!
    ErynLeavens 9/26/2016 | 7:13:08 PM
    Re: A long time ago, we used to be friends Veronica Mars was the BEST! Only slightly weirded out that you were watching it as teenage me was also watching it, Mitch.

    I think going into a one-stall restroom for women when you're a man is fine. Glad you didn't go into a multi-stall women's restroom though. That might be crossing the line.
    Mitch Wagner 9/26/2016 | 4:04:33 PM
    A long time ago, we used to be friends Kristen Bell is awesome. Bring back Veronica Mars!

    I was at a conference recently with a similar bathroom line as that TechCrunch Disrupt. As the bathrooms were all one-seaters, I finally cut ahead to use the women's bathroom. I don't normally abuse my male privilege that way, but I'd had a lot of coffee that morning and it seemed a necessary decision.
    Sarah Thomas 9/23/2016 | 11:05:22 AM
    Re: Bias training Yeah, thanks for sharing about Twitter. I hadn't heard as much about it as other companies in the Valley. Unconscious bias is so prevalent that I think any kind of training that just brings awareness to it is helpful. It came up on our panel a lot too -- that a lot of the things people (both men and women, but probably more often men) say or do are well-intentioned, but often not helpful. Like the manager who said Sandi could go home early because she had to get dinner on the table. He meant well, but should be made aware of how stereotypical, limiting and even detrimental statements like that can be.
    Kelsey Ziser 9/23/2016 | 10:06:49 AM
    Bias training I've never heard of "unconscious bias training," but it seems like an effective way to bring pre-conceived notions to the forefront. Sounds like Twitter is on the right track with bias training and 'gender-neutral' parental leave. Also love the Oakland tech billboard!
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