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Vote for "Diversity-Friendly Software" at SXSW!

1 min read

Vote for my Panel Picker Idea!SXSW's "Panel Picker" opened for voting today, so it's a golden opportunity to check out the session Shireen Mitchell and I proposed on "Diversity-friendly software".  Voting counts for 30% of the score on a proposal, so if you're interested please vote for it - and pass it along!

Here's the description:

It’s time for software to embrace differences (not just tolerate them), and see diversity as a strength. Most software today works best for people like the teams that create it, and embeds biases against women, African-Americans, Latinxs, LGBTAIQs, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups - and it's even worse at the intersections. So the industry is primed for change. This session discusses current examples, “best practices” that teams can immediately leverage, and emerging ideas from projects that have focused heavily on diversity. We also discuss the challenges and how to overcome them - and chart a path to the future.

And here's a short video I did with some more information



Diversity Links, June 20

2 min read



Perspectives on the Women Startup Challenge

4 min read

Women Who Tech Logo“7% of investor money goes to women-led startups, and only 0.2% to women-of-color.  We have a lot of work to do”.

-- Women Who Tech founder Allyson Kapin, kicking off the 3rd Women Startup Challenge


Yeah really.  And Women Who Tech has indeed been doing a lot of work over the years -- here’s a blog post I did back in 2010 on one of their telesummits.  So I was excited for the Women Startup Challenge, hosted at the LinkedIn headquarters.  And it didn’t disappoint!


After a great networking hour (with wonderful food!), and quick welcomes from Allyson, long-time Women Who Tech advisor Lisa Stone of BlogHer, sponsor Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects fame, and Jacqueline Jones of LinkedIn’s Diversity and Inclusion team, we moved on to the pitch competition.  Each of the ten finalists had four minutes for a pitch describing the problem, their solution, the team, and the business opportunity, followed by four minutes of questions from the judges.   


I loooove pitch competitions, and this event really reminded me why.  The description of the finalists beforehand was impressive; as Lisa Stone said during the networking, the bar has risen a lot over the last decade. In person, they were even better.  


Startup Challenge finalists


The pitches were outstanding: crisp and polished, presenting great teams with interesting products and excellent business opportunities.   (No need to take my word for it, though: you can see some excerpts on the Audience Awards site.)  The variety of the companies gave a great chance to learn about a broad range of interesting industries -- health and wellness, recruiting, financial planning, clean tech, end-of-life planning, custom manufacturing and virtual reality.  The judges helped as well, with probing questions; and Allyson and Justyn Ashley kept things moving along at a fine pace.


One thing that really struck me was the supportive feel of the event, both from the audience and between the competitors.  It’s something Allyson brought up as well when we talked afterwards.  Sure, it’s certainly a competition; in another way, though, we’re all on the same side.  


Stephanie Lampkin’s pitch for Blendoor (“merit-based matching”) really stood out for me.  I was already excited about Blendoor, an intriguing app with a Tinder-like interface that reduces the effect of unconscious bias in recruiting by hiding people’s names and photos.  Before last night, though, I wondered whether it was just a feature that other recruiting apps could easily copy.  Stephanie’s extraordinary presentation helped me understand that this is just what that gets them in the door, and their bigger vision is to reinvent the way recruiting is done.  Talk about music to my ears: diversity as a strategic advantage :) 


A few other highlights:


  • Suelin Chen of Cake had the single best line of the night, when talking about the importance of end-of-life planning: “100%.  That’s the percentage of people who will die.”  

  • Kiah Williams of SIRUM had the most intriguing elevator pitch: “the for unused, unexpired medicine, matching it with people in need”

  • Annie Mohaupt of Mohop who digitally fabricates mass-customizable footwear on demand, had the best shoes -- and the most interesting factoid: off-the-shelf shoes are a good fit for only 15%.

  • Samantha Rudolph of Babyation, Katie Brenner of Blu Diagnostics, and Denise Terry of EmbraceFamily Health all did a great job of relating their own personal experiences to their products.

As is always the case with pitch competitions, there’s a lot of value for all the participants: exposure, coaching, and networking.  Still, the prizes are a big part of it.  Blendoor won the audience’s vote, via Audience Awards, and got $120,000 in cloud services from IBM.  Blu Diagnostics, an app and device to provide women and couples with medically accurate fertility data, won a $10,000 investment from Backstage Capital.  And the grand prize, $50,000 cash (donate by Craig Newmark), went to SIRUM.  Congrats to all the winners!




And congrats as well to Allyson and the Women Who Tech team, who continue to do a great job building community and supporting women in technology.  Up next for them: Women Startup Challenge Europe.

Something to look forward to!


Open Source Bridge: crowdfunding to provide onsite childcare

1 min read

Open Source Bridge logoOpen Source Bridge is less than a week away!  So I just wanted to drop another reminder about their crowdfunding campaign, raising money to provide free onsite child care - as well as honoraria for the keynote speakers, travel expenses, and scholarships.

One of the things I really like about the conference is that they don't just talk about diversity, they actually try to embody it.  It's much easier for working parents to attend the conference if childcare is available - and conversely, given they dynamics of our society, if childcare isn't available, it's more likely to be women who can't attend.

Here's what co-chairs Shawna Scott and Thursday Bram have to say about it:

Well said.  So please consider donating!




Diversity Links, June 13

2 min read

A handful of links of stories I saw this week ...




Diversity Links, May 27

2 min read

A handful of links of stories I saw this week ...






#diversity links, 5/20

4 min read

The headline on this first one is particularly interesting ... the majority of female CEOs are in favor of gender diversity mandates, aka quotas.  However the headline and entire tone of the article highlights the minority who are against the policy.  It's almost like the author's perspective is biasing their view of the data!

Taking on Tech’s Diversity Problem in Grade School - Newsweek

The mission  of BlackGirlsCode, which started in 2011, is to close the gap by getting girls tinkering with and thinking about programming while they’re young, making them feel like they can compete in computer science classes in college and beyond. It’s a goal shared by BGC’s Silicon Valley sponsors like Salesforce and Google, which are struggling with diversity, and by similar nonprofits around the country, like Girls Who Code and Level the Playing Field.


Open Source Bridge 2016: schedule announced, a discount code, and a crowdfunding campaign!

3 min read

OSBridge rainbow logoThe schedule for this year's Open Source Bridge conference is up, and it looks like another great program!  

It kicks off at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, with a keynote by Shauna Gordon-McKeon on Free Culture in an Expensive World, and then breaks out into multiple tracks.  Wednesday's keynote is by Julia Nguyen, on Exploring Mental Illness with Open Source, and Audrey Eschright is on Thursday with Creating a Third Wave of Free/Open Source Software.  Good stuff!

As usual there are a ton of interesting topics on the agenda.  Some of the sessions I'm especially looking forward to include Kronda Adair on Building a Life with WordPress, Jennifer Rondeau on What can the open source software of today learn from the history of software documentation?, Audrey Eschright (again) on Unraveling the Masculinization of Technology, Meghan McClelland on Finding funding for an open source based business, Alolita Sharma on  The Rise of Emoji, Anne DeCusatis on More Than Binary: Inclusive Gender Collection and You, Rebecca Jennings on The Ability to Disable: Who Did You Forget When You Designed Your UI?, Denise Paolucci of Dreamwidth on Hard Problems in Terms of Service Enforcement ... and of course Tammarian Rogers and me on Supporting diversity with a new approach to software :)  And that's only the tip of the iceberg; check out the full schedule to see lots of other goodness.

If you're thinking "wow, that sounds great, I really want to go to", then you're in luck: for the rest of this week, the discount code osbgenerosity gets you $42 off.  

And if you're thinking "wow, that sounds so different than most technical conferences," you're very right.  A lot of conferences say they want diversity but don't treat it as a priority; at Open Source Bridge, it's the core of what they do.  I'm consistenly impressed with how much they do to make it happen.

One of the new things they're doing this year is a crowdfunding campaign.  As the organizers write in We're Crowdfunding on their blog:

We cover part of our costs by selling tickets to attendees like you. We also offer sponsorships to organizations wanting to reach Open Source Bridge attendees. We already have a venue and an amazing batch of speakers. But there are other costs of running a conference that are harder to cover through sponsorship. We’re asking for your help to cover those costs and to help us make Open Source Bridge more sustainable.

They're looking to raise $8000 via crowdfunding , which will cover honorariums for keynote speakers, free childcare for all attendees, and scholarships for food and travel.   Those all seem like great priorities to me, so I chipped in.  If you value diversity and open source, please consider supporting Open Source Bridge!


Diversity links, May 13

2 min read

Some recent articles related to diversity, mostly with a tech focus.



FastCompany on Sidewire: wait a second, I'm noticing a pattern here ...

3 min read

The breathless profile of Sidewire in Fast Company raves about the quality of the participants in their "compelling" conversations: Ron, Shermichael, Travis, Tommy, Bob, Tim, Jon, Jacob, Kurt … hey wait a second, I’m noticing a pattern here!  Strangely though it isn't ever mentioned in the article.  I wonder if the author David, company founders Tucker and Andy, and investors Kevin and Mike also see it?*

Don't get me wrong, I very much agree that there's a strong desire for high-quality political conversation.  Sidewire's approach of discussions between "newsmakers" is an interesting variant on TVs and radio's classic talking heads formats.  It's high-quality content, from a range of political views.  By putting a premium on "expertise," it's very attractive to current influencers, so it's no surprise they've gotten a lot of interest.

From a business perspective, though, the site's lack of diversity certainly seems like a challenge.   Sure, there are plenty of people who who are so used to only hearing guys' opinions that they don't notice something's missing -- and for that matter, plenty of people who would just as soon not hear what women have to say.  But especially in a year where, y'know, we have the first ever major-party female candidate for President, and early polls show yuuuuge gender differences in people's reactions to the candidates ... why would you want to limit your audience?

Of course the guys who started the company, and the guys who are advising them, and the guys who have invested in them probably aren't thinking of it that way.  Given which, I though the the closing quote of the article was pretty entertaining:

Sidewire may be a slick app trying to transform texting threads into the next media format, but for [founder Tucker] Bounds and his newsmakers, it's a personal attempt to turn the clock back to the politics they want, not the politics we have.


* Women actually do exist on Sidewire, at least in small numbers.   Looking at their front page (which by the way is overwhelmingly blue, and no option to change colors), a handful of the chats actually are hosted by women; overall, the list of chat hosts is probably "only" 80% guys.  Still, that's a lot.  And the company's employees are similarly "only" about 80% male; Meredith Carden (who was the only woman quoted in the article) and Carolne Chalmers work on partnerships, Winne Cheng is an engineer.