Diversity is not “too hard” for #LWTSUMMIT

Photo Credit: Lesbians Who Tech

The tech industry is known for bringing together the greatest minds to solve the world’s biggest problems, but it just can’t seem to solve the seemingly insurmountable problem of increasing diversity. Countless initiatives are launched by top tech companies in an effort to make their teams more diverse, with limited success. In fact, many organizations confess that diversity is “too hard” and that there are not enough diverse and qualified individuals in tech.

That’s simply not true. While increasing diversity is not a simple fix, highly talented individuals of underrepresented races and genders are already building the products and solutions of the future, with many more who are qualified to do so, but are unjustly excluded from opportunities.

Increasing diversity takes deliberate action, not just flashy statements suggesting intent. So when an organization such as Lesbians Who Tech makes consistent efforts to promote diversity within and beyond their yearly San Francisco Summit, magical things can happen.

An experience that all conferences should strive for

This past weekend, I attended the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco, for the second time, and the level of diversity was incredible.

Put simply, if the attendees and speakers of the summit were the employees and leadership team of a top tech company, tech’s current diversity problem would be a lack of straight, white men.

In attendance were many well-known speakers such as Edie Windsor and Kara Swisher, who spoke about their fascinating personal and professional experiences, but an additional 1,600 queer women attended to listen, learn, and cultivate new relationships, as well.

That metric by itself may sound impressive, but it’s still just a number that lacks a meaningful look into who the attendees were.

Luckily, Lesbians Who Tech published 100 wonderful photos (including the photos in this post) that show off the energy and diversity of the summit. I encourage you to look through their post and see for yourself what a true and actual commitment to diversity can look like:

While I was not able to get to know everyone at the Summit, I did meet some amazing women that are talented innovators in their industry. To further illustrate the diverse talent present at this event, I’d like to highlight some of those rad women and the dedication they have to their work.

Photo Credit: Lesbians Who Tech

To start the summit on Thursday night, I met Cordelia Hyland, a UX & Design Researcher at Good Eggs. I was able to talk to her more later in the weekend, and it became clear that she was dedicated to her craft, even doing some impromptu user-testing of the Good Eggs app with a fellow attendee.

Having met Lisa Sy at last year’s summit, I was already familiar with her design and artistic talents as a Product Designer at Facebook, but it was great seeing her talk to those interested in working at Facebook during the Twitter Career Fair, even though she wasn’t required to do so.

Considering all the great people I had met already, it was becoming clear that the Lesbians Who Tech Summit was the place for highly talented and dedicated tech professionals to share their knowledge and experiences. Therefore, it was only fitting that after a long but enjoyable day at the Twitter Career Fair, I met Darla Hollander and Cassie Wallender.

Darla is a network engineer at Cisco, which seems impressive enough, but I found out the next day that she also has her own company that develops electricity-producing footwear!

Cassie, a Product Designer and UX expert, has been designing and making awesome products for over ten years. She not only designs, but she also manages a team of designers, sharing her knowledge and expertise along the way.

I made a point to mention all of the great professional things these women do, but more importantly, they are all simply awesome people. I had such a wonderful time connecting with them and I can only imagine the similar connections other attendees made. When you consider the fact that I, a fairly introverted person, met so many incredible people, it’s quite possible that over 10,000 meaningful connections were made this past weekend, which is remarkable.

If a non-profit like Lesbians Who Tech can successfully create a diverse and welcoming environment, so can any top tech company. It is not an easy task, but it is not “too hard”.

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