Lesbians Who Tech Summit 2015

Lesbians Who Tech (and the people who love them) had their 2nd Annual San Francisco Summit on Feb 27th 2015 at the iconic Castro Theater. This year, I had participated in both volunteering to organize the event and speak on the main stage. It’s been two weeks since the event and I think it’s time for my official thoughts.

Background

Last year, I stumbled across the first Lesbians Who Tech summit when a coworker and I were invited by the founder, Leanne Pittsford. I remember sitting in the audience with two Twilio colleagues and feeling as though it was the greatest and most lesbian conference we had ever been to. I left feeling inspired, motivated and excited. Since that last summit in 2014, I have made it a mission to be more involved with Lesbians Who Tech, and through that involvement I have grown more in my career than I could have ever previously imagined.

Along with many others, I worked with Leanne and other city directors to make this summit as successful as could be by seeking sponsors, speakers and researching locations. I never knew how much was involved when planning an event like this. A huge thank you goes out to the entire Lesbians Who Tech team and volunteers, this would have been unimaginable without everyone involved.

The week leading up to the summit was incredible. As I have grown with Lesbians Who Tech, so have my network of friends and professional connections, and everyone was in town. The entire week, I looked forward to seeing all of my friends that are now scattered across the world.

The Summit

The morning of the summit, my partner and I arrived bright and early to meet with another Twilion for coffee and breakfast. I was too excited to eat, Lesbians Who Tech was like camp! When we checked in and walked through the doors, I immediately felt excited and at home. The first hour was filled with excitement, reunions and hugs.

Too excited to sit still, I stood in the back of the theater and looked over the audience. I have been to the Castro theater a number of times and have seen it filled to capacity many times before, but never like this. It was filled with 1200 queer women and allies. It brought a smile to my face to see this many queer women and allies brought together.

As the lights dimmed to kick off the summit, I felt a sense of pride to be a part of this community. The introduction video brought laughs and eased some apprehension of the people who didn’t know what to expect. We celebrated the “gold stars”, as the people who have been to every lesbian event by giving them “#Lezbro” t-shirts.

Emceed by the hilarious duo Erica Anderson and Danielle Moodie-Mills, the mainstage highlighted many women who spoke about their respective careers, products, companies and projects. The founder of Mother Coders and program director of Code for Progress started the morning with a fireside chat with Danielle and Aisha Moodie-Mills (Politini) about the importance of getting more women and other underrepresented minorities into the field. After, the mainstage continued into more TED-talk style, 10 minute presentations by amazing women like Pia Carusone, who spoke of technology and gun violence, Emily Connely, who spoke about the work being done at 23andme, Aga Bojko who spoke of UX design at Indiegogo and many many more. Each talk was filled with inspiration and a sense of community.

I took the stage after the second break and continued my talk on working with brogrammers. The talk has quite evolved since the first time I gave it in New York, but it was a proud moment for me. Not only was this the largest audience I have spoken in front of, but it was the first time my partner was going to see me speak publicly. As I tried to cram my 13 minute talk into 10, I felt a sense of community on stage. Afterwards, I was greeted with multiple high fives which of course, left me grinning from ear to ear. One of the first people who told me “good job” was Megan Smith… you know, the CTO of AMERICA. Excuse me while I control my excitement.

The rest of the day went on in a blur. I met with wonderful people, who had the nicest feedback regarding my talk and also a lot of people who recognized the Twilio track jacket and wanted to partner. We went to the Twilio hosted lunch, Coder’s Connect, and met with more developers, engineers, designers, students, product and managers. It was a restaurant filled (literally, I was standing and eating) with women who just wanted to meet other women like them. It was an overwhelming sense of community and enjoyment. Afterwards, we sat in the mainstage and watched even more talks that opened our minds and goals to the things we have and can achieve. I think the biggest thing for me while sitting as an audience member was knowing that there were women out there like myself who have done these amazing things. So often women are written (more often, bullied) out of the story, but here were women telling those stories with pride. We weren’t the damsel in distress that needed help and we weren’t the “assistant”, because these were women who made the rules and broke barriers. Every person in that room was living proof that it does get better, and that women can do things just as well (and more often better) than men do. The talks and breakout sessions continued and included Kara Swisher interviewing Marc Benioff as well as a fireside chat with Leanne Pittsford and Megan Smith as she received the much deserved Trailblazer award.

The Lesbians Who Tech Summit is different in every way possible. There were actually lines for the women’s restrooms! The talks were interactive by nature as they were so engaging and inspiring, but it wasn’t all just being talked to. There were multiple breakout sessions that focused on various concentrations of tech as well as strategically placed breaks at the mainstage in order to not tire out the audience. There was even a hula-hoop contest and a marriage proposal on stage! Even the talking styles varied from TED-talk style to panel to fireside chats and ignite talks (5 minute auto advancing slides).

The summit festivities ran late into the night and poured over into the rest of the weekend. On Saturday, we planned for Mango, a lesbian dance club, but after seeing the 2 hour wait to get in, I was delighted to hear a majority of my friends were next door at Virgil’s. I ended up meeting an totally rad transwoman named Shelly and spending the rest of the evening with her, my partner and many more friends. The conversations that night ranged from where we grew up to coming out stories to families to areas of privilege and much more. At this point, it was no longer about Lesbians Who Tech but it was about friendships and community.

Other than seeing my friends, speaking on stage and meeting absolutely wonderful people, there was one big thing that stuck out for me that weekend and it was the involvement of my partner. My partner and I are opposite when it comes to work style events, I am more social and very into networking. I was worried that she would feel like I left her while I networked like a social butterfly but every time I came by to talk to her, she was off making new friends and incredibly engaged with every aspect of the conference. I even invited her to something with me and she declined because she wanted to hang out with new friends. She told me that she felt so inspired by everything she had seen and left with a lanyard full of business cards from people she wanted to keep in contact with. It warmed my heart having my partner be a part this and to know she wasn’t just watching from the sidelines but rather actively engaged.

There were many people I met who stated they didn’t know how to feel going into the summit because they didn’t identify as a lesbian but after the first day, all of those people told me that they found Lesbians Who Tech to be incredibly inclusive and a culture of celebration.  

It feels me with anger any time I hear, “We’d love to hire more women and underrepresented minorities but the talent just isn’t there”. That’s bullshit. Take anyone who says that to a conference like this and they will eat their words. As Aliya Rahman, program director of Code for Progress, said, “the best way to hire women and people of color, is to hire them”.


For more rad photos check out:

Photos from the Summit!

Photos from the hackathon

Photos from the Saturday Workshop

Photos from the Photobooth

To hear more about what people thought about the summit, check out: 

Buzzfeed takes the lead with a play by play of the Summit.

What it’s like to be a Lesbian in Tech

Fortune shares the problematic invisibility that lesbians in tech face.

Second Annual “Lesbians Who Tech” Summit Ups the Ante

Many of our friends at Autostraddle joined us at the Summit in the “Queers Who Media Lunch” and they happily recap their experiences

All important meetings at Salesforce must include at least 30% women, says CEO

Business Insider recaps keynote interview, Marc Benioff’s thoughts on diversity in tech and his idea of the women surge he implements at Salesforce

2015 Lesbians Who Tech Summit

Tracey Kaplan from Google recaps with a hilarious photo montage, tidbits of conversation, and her love of all the food swag.

#LWTSummit: from “I’m just” to “I am”

Djuan Trent, a truly stellar human shares her personal journey and things she learned at the Summit

How Salesforce Rocked The Lesbians Who Tech Summit

Longshore Consulting hones in on Benioff’s talk and the key points that he made with his interview with Kara Swisher. They close out their post with a call to action: How will you talk with your executives about diversity and other issues raised at the Summit?

Lesbians Who Tech Summit 2015

Dom DeGuzman, one of our fabulous speakers shares what it was like to attend in various roles; as a volunteer leading up to the summit, as a speaker, and with her partner. 

What I learned at Lesbians Who Tech

Mary Scottona developer at Salesforce posts about the growth edge that she came up against at the Summit. She highlights that learning can take place at any age and stage.

Lesbians Who Tech Summit SF ‘15 Writeup

Shellycame to the Summit apprehensive about the response she would receive as a trans person. She reflects on the safe space she found at the Summit.

Lesbians Who Tech

Storming the Castle, posted 2 blogs about the Summit, one about highlighting safe spaces and networking and the other about speakers and surprises (which there were quite a few).

Great Hair and Great Hugs: The Inspiration of Lesbians Who Tech Summit 2015

Sari Melineone of our fabulous life coaches that spoke at the workshop on Summit Day 2 shares the inspiration she took from the Summit.

Benioff touts Salesforce’s Diversity Surge at Lesbians Who Tech Event

A continued explanation of Marc Benioff’s speech this year

9 Queer Women In Tech Tell Us What They’ve Learned

Our friends at Buzzfeed also asked Summit Participants what they have learned working in the tech field. Their responses are highlighted in photos.

Blendoor Assists Tech Companies to Create Diversity on Purpose

Our demo winner, Stephanie Lampkin was highlighted in a tech.co article about her app.

Lesbians Who Tech Summit 2015, nous y étions pour vous !

Finally, click your Google Translate button, and read this recap of the Summit from some of our attendees complete with fantastic captions on the videos