A Fervent Ally to Women in Tech

Last week, I got to share some remarks at a Women in Tech rally hosted by Girls Who Code in Union Square in New York City, as an ally representing Out in Tech — it was a huge honor, and a powerful experience for me to share the stage with so many inspiring, smart women.

A few kind people encouraged me to share my remarks, which weirdly feels much more nerve-racking than sharing them in a public square. But here we go: my thoughts on supporting women in tech as an ally and advocate.

I’m Toby Hervey, the Board President of Out in Tech, CEO & Founder of Bravely, and a dedicated, fervent ally of women in technology.

I started my career in tech and startups at the Gilt Groupe almost a decade ago, and entering the professional world presented a new frontier of personal trepidation, as I grappled with how open I would be about my sexual identity.

Would I openly talk about my dating life? Would I openly talk about my deep love of Beyonce? I just wasn’t sure what to expect as an out gay man in the tech workplace.

But I quickly learned from experience that the technology industry and startups were among the absolute best places I could work, where I would be accepted and even celebrated.

My colleagues and friends from Gilt created a very welcoming and safe space for me, and I’ve never since feared being completely open about my sexuality in a professional context. Thankfully as a group, the technology industry and its leaders have been some of the most vocally and actively progressive around same-sex causes.

However, I’ve come to realize over time that part of my warm welcome stems from the privileges of being a white male, even if I am a gay one.

I’ve seen first-hand in a meeting full of men the sole woman get looked at when it’s suggested someone take notes.

I’ve seen smart, competent women get badgered and berated by men in the workplace, men who create a fraction of the value those same women do.

The truth is, it remains more challenging to be a woman in technology and to be taken seriously, and this injustice is truly unfathomable.

Women have been instrumental in every personal success I’ve experienced, and critical in everything I’ve ever helped build. Women ultimately gave me a chance with my first job at Gilt, when I frankly had few qualifications other than tons of earnestness. Women have been some of the strongest and hardest-fighting advocates for gay rights and gay causes. My co-founder and partner at Bravely is a woman, and an unstoppable force of nature.

The injustice of how women are treated in technology is not only something I cannot fathom, it is something that enrages me and drives me, as it should drive all of us.

We all must work to translate that rage into action every day, and pursue the power of technology to give voice to the voiceless.

To build community.

To help protect vulnerable populations.

To empower activism and bravery.

Out in Tech is an organization that stands for and strives for driving LGBTQ diversity in tech through career development, youth mentorship, our digital corps volunteer program for other nonprofits and events that foster dialogue — and hopefully action — around diversity in technology issues.

Now, as a founder, our company Bravely offers a safe, confidential space for employees to get coaching and guidance around conflict and issues in the workplace, mostly serving women, people of color and LGBTQ-identifying individuals.

This work is centered on the belief that more bold voices in technology from women, people of color, and queer people makes technology an even stronger force for driving change, social mobility and economic opportunity. I hope that my work every day contributes to making sure voices are heard and people are seen, because I have benefitted so much from being heard and being represented.

I look at my own experience — a career and work environment that has empowered and emboldened me to by best and my true self — and I know that everyone deserves and should be privileged enough to live this experience.

And I know that it is the responsibility of all of us — not just women — to ensure they do.