Written by Dez White
It’s not often enough that the tech scene does major outreach to women in the community. The prevailing “bro” culture of Silicon Valley permeates everything from on-the-job meetings to the process of seeking funding. Being a female does, in some circles, put you at a disadvantage. Still, there is mounting evidence to suggest that the female perspective is extremely valuable to a company’s bottom line. There may even be productivity costs associated with an underrepresentation of women in the workforce that we have not fully understood. What we started this year is a movement of sorts, and one that we hope will continue to work well into the future.
The Philosophy Behind Girl Code LA
When we hosted Girl Code LA, our goal was to create a space where women could learn about the wonders of technology. We believe that awareness is the first step toward bringing more women into the tech scene. I would not have created the Invisible apps suite had I not had a friend give me an introduction to technology, and show me what technology could do for me if I could harness that ability.
In school, subjects are still broken up by gender roles. Boys still find themselves enrolled in math and science, while girls still find themselves pursuing fields best described as liberal arts. President Obama, and first Lady Michelle, have both made public pushes for all people to begin pursuing education and careers in STEM fields.
Basically, the philosophy behind Girl Code LA is “pay it forward.” A friend helped show me what tech could do for me. It’s my purpose in life to let other women know that technology is something they can use in their daily lives, and that development is not out of reach.
Girl Code LA in Practice
We began working with engage:BDR, a digital advertising company with a programmatic marketplace. They helped provide us with a space to host, and assisted in our outreach efforts. They utilize an enormous range of technology in their work, and their management team consists of several key female members who consistently contribute inspiring ideas. We also invited female entrepreneurs from the Los Angeles area to come and share their stories with our group.
It began with a short networking session that quickly grew into a larger narrative about careers and experiences in the tech industry. I was the first to take the stage, speaking on my experiences learning to code while I was pregnant and sharing some of the logistical aspects I had to come to grips with. Our next speaker talked about some of the legal elements that women need to know in order to protect their work.
Another networking session followed and we all hit the floor to mingle. It was rewarding for me to hear so many women talk about their aspirations, and to share their hopes for the future. Sydney Goldman from engage:BDR presented some ideas on marketing applications, and we ended our day with a discussion about funding and the business aspects. All entrepreneurs in attendance fielded questions as well.
The fifty women who showed up that day left with a better sense of what it takes to break into this business. We provided them with practical knowledge they could use to network, and contacts to key figures in their industry. I still work with some of these women to provide support on their projects.
What Girl Code LA Accomplished
The women who came to this event were at all stages of production, from the very beginning to well into their product launch stages. It was inspiring to hear about these projects and to meet others who have shared the same trials and hardships I’ve faced in my own life. We helped people find internships; we gave them the tools they needed to get that foot in the door, which is so crucial in this business. Bootstrapping a company is incredibly difficult, especially if you are a female.
I was also glad to know these topics are not tired, old news. That there are women out there actively engaged in attempting to change this scene for the better.
We made technology accessible to girls and women that day. We left everyone in attendance with the feeling that technology is not boring, nor is it male-oriented. I don’t know if what we did will make tech any less intimidating for women, but we did form a bond that day.
Our hope is that future events will continue to inspire women of all ages to pursue their dreams. Technology is only one field where women face adversity. I want to continue this discussion, and to encourage others to ask why we don’t see more female entrepreneurs and coders. Hopefully these efforts will one day create a space where women can feel accepted in a scene that has equal appeal to them.
Dez White is the first African American female entrepreneur to successfully launch applications to the Apple app store. Dez White is a self-taught developer, mother and native of Los Angeles.