A Letter from the Editor: Welcome!

My name is Lea, and I’m starting a blog called Women of Silicon Valley.

One of my favorite publications is Humans of New York, and in the same way Humans provides snapshots into the lives of New Yorkers, Women of Silicon Valley is meant to showcase the lives of females working in the heart of the tech industry.

When I tell my friends about the blog, they often ask why? Why would I complicate my already chaotic juggling act of a schedule?

The answer is simple: it’s personal.

The summer after freshman year I interned at Facebook developing an iOS app and when it was back to school, all my classmates and I would exchange stories from our summers. I remember a boy (let’s call him Rush like Rush Limbaugh) asking my guy friend who also worked at Facebook about his summer. When he heard about it his mouth dropped.

“Wow! Facebook! You must be really smart!”

He then turned to me and asked the same question: what did you do last summer? Except when I gave him the same answer—“Facebook”—I got a completely different response:

“Oh… well then I should have applied for that internship.”

I was floored.

What did he mean by that? Why would he react so differently? I didn’t even know Rush that well, so what about me could possibly make my internship at Facebook suddenly seem like a giveaway, a charity case?

I had completed all the same programming assignments, implemented the same heap allocator as everyone else, undergone the same interview processes — was it something I said? Was I dumb?

I didn’t know whether I wanted to insult Rush in three different languages or curl up in the fetal position on my bed and contemplate my intelligence. Either way, I was floored.

It’s been two years since that moment, and these two years have brought an entire suite of more negative, almost comically sexist behavior: I’ve been told at work that “girls don’t code because they’re, you know, artsier”; I’ve been called a bitch when I spoke my mind; and I’ve had much older co-workers literally GChat me pickup lines (that aren’t even clever) to the point I’d avoid certain portions of the office altogether.

But these two years have also brought personal growth, as I’ve come to realize just how unacceptable this behavior is, how inappropriate comments like Rush’s are.

I’ve come to be more and more confident in my own ability, in taking ownership of my accomplishments.

And a huge part of this breakthrough is because of female role models, women I’ve met at Stanford or work who’ve been able to empathize with me, women who’ve convinced me that at the end of a long, crappy tunnel fraught with temptations to question my intelligence and terrible pickup lines, there is a light.

These women are unique. And I mean that in every sense of the word.

They represent the just ~12% of the software industry that is female, the crazy but amazing few who’ve persevered through creepy, belittling, and outright sexist adversity to carve out their own niche, to affect billions of consumers through their engineering and entrepreneurship.

So in answer to the original question, I’m starting Women of Silicon Valley because I want to celebrate these living—and thriving—examples of female success, these rebels against the numbers and the gender norms.

I want women who are sitting on the fence about Computer Science to get as inspired as I was by these role models, and hopefully, to see that at its heart tech is exciting, immensely powerful and so, so worth it.

We’ll be releasing the story of our first role model soon. In the meantime, we’d appreciate if you like “Women of Silicon Valley” on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or email us at womenofsiliconvalley@gmail.com with any nominations of women you think should be shared.

I look forward to hearing your feedback. Thanks for reading!

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