Tagged: women in tech

Schoolin’ Life: Melissa Wong

In the latest edition of Schoolin’ Life, we chat with tech maven, yoga student, and side hustler Melissa Wong.

20151026_Melissa_26

Photo credit: Ren Yagolnitzer

Quick bio: who are you, what are you into, what do you spend your time doing?

I am a curious, inquisitive person. Whether it be a speaker series, workshop, or gathering with friends, I like to stay busy learning! Fortunately, living and working in Brooklyn lets me do just that.

I work for Kickstarter, just completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training, and am hungrily learning more about the art of facilitation. These days I wake up, eat, breathe and subway thinking about my passion project, Up Speak: an organization which facilitates intimate career support groups for women navigating similar professional terrain.

As someone still learning about what kind of work I find most meaningful, I created Up Speak to provide a collaborative space for kindred spirits to help hold each other inspired and accountable to their goals.

If you are interested in joining the first 2016 session, let me know here!

When you were in your 20s:

What expectations did you have for yourself in the decade?

I’m in my late 20s so I’m not in the clear yet!
I recently went to a Lady Boss event and was comforted by one of the speaker’s stories. She said she’s been working for 30 years: the first ten years she was just figuring out what she wanted to do; the second ten she spent getting good at it; and it has only been in the last ten years that she’s finally getting real traction. I hope that by the time I exit my 20s I will have passed that first milestone of refining what it is that I am not only good at but feel great doing.

What was your first job like?

My first real job was hostessing at my dad’s seafood restaurant in San Diego which was just up the street from my high school.  
Working at The Fish Merchant, I got my first taste of what it’s like trying to please people and the idea that “the customer is always right”. It was a formative job in that it spurred me to work part-time throughout college, building a resume in hospitality. It also allowed me to save enough money for backpacking travels during my summers. I have dedicated a large part of my 20s to traveling and eating!

What was your first apartment like?

My first time renting an apartment on my own was in a different country where I had to trust other people to translate what was going on. I was teaching English in a small city in Spain and was only going to be there for 9 months. It was admittedly a quirky, pretty hideous apartment but I still sought refuge there from a city that made me feel like an outsider.

That said, I just had dinner with the girl I lived with during that strange, transitional time and feel fortunate that I made a lasting friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Yes! Let me try to count them… I’ve lived in many different cities in different countries. I’ve only had one 1 year lease, instead opting for sublets that don’t require rental agreements. I’ve had several serious relationships. My parents got divorced. I’ve had over 10 different jobs.

I realized along the way that it is harder for some people to brave moving outside their comfort zones and harder for others to stay put where they are.
I happened to fall into the latter group but felt a shift a few years ago from simply wanting to drink in the world, to wanting to have experiences that had more long term impact. Now I’d much rather travel to a new place and be involved in a project there, then just be an observer floating through. I’m happy to take on the challenge of finding newness in the everyday.

In what ways did your friendships change?

When you move around a lot, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold close everyone you care about. The tradeoff to having the freedom to move and experience new places is that it will never be possible to have all the people you love in one place. That has been a reality I’ve had to accept over the past decade.

Fortunately for me, my best friend and I have lived parallel lives. We haven’t gone very long without being in the same city and able to see each other on an everyday basis. She has been a grounding force for me through all of life’s changes, a constant that I feel incredibly grateful to have had during periods of growth and self-discovery.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

I think a lot of people today put so much pressure on their partner to be their everything — their best friend, their fiery lover, their roomie, their travel companion, and on and on. These shoes are too big for any one person to fill!
I’m still trying to be able to distinguish between these high expectations society has created for us and what my real hopes and needs are in a partnership. It’s a constant education. When it comes to what it means to grow with and alongside someone else, to understand how we as individuals and us as a couple can symbiotically flourish, I’m still very much a student.

How did your relationships with your family change?
I feel lucky that I’ve had strong family connections that have supported and anchored me throughout all of the fluxes in my 20s. After my parents divorced, my younger sister and I found a silver lining in really cultivating individual relationships with both our mom and dad. Now that we are all adults, we’ve had to navigate what it means to have these relationship ”2.0s”.  It’s a process but we’re getting better and better at it!

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I like to think I’ve become both more self-aware and also self-assured. I’ve gotten clearer on what makes me feel like my authentic self and accepting of who I am. I have also had more practice at being attuned to what someone else is feeling or needs. Turns out, empathy grows with experience.

In high school, I remember feeling irritated once when my mom read a tragic headline in the newspaper and started to cry about it. I didn’t understand how just reading something about people she didn’t even know could elicit such an emotional response.

How did you change intellectually?

If college is there to help you “learn to think”, my 20s was about getting more “street smart”. Moving away from academia toward the workforce I wanted to do more and conjecture less.

I’ve learned the importance of presentation, confidence, and connections throughout my professional career. These are invaluable skills that they just don’t teach you in college.
More recently, I’ve shifted my thinking about the malleability of thought patterns themselves. I always thought that one’s propensity toward certain thoughts was largely inflexible. I’m coming around to the idea that your mind is like a muscle — you can actually train it to form different pathways, to choose alternate ways to view your reality. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling to know that we have more control over our thoughts than we think.

 

Welp, now I get it. After doing, seeing, and feeling more things, it’s easier for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes and really physically process what they must be going through. Just the other day I was fighting back tears after reading a news headline…

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?
After being a student for so long, it was difficult to emerge into the working world and find my footing. Without grades to validate my worth, I felt a palpable dip in self-confidence. I didn’t know how to market myself because I didn’t know what I had to offer aside from being a critical thinker who could write essays and talk about ideas. I was one of many educated young people trying to find the uniquely shaped hole in which I could curl into perfectly. The “How to Conquer Your Quarter-life Crisis” book that my mom gave me upon college graduation, unfortunately, didn’t help.

It was challenging to enter a workforce that seemed to only want to employ people who design or engineer products. I’ve had to work hard to identify and embrace the interpersonal, intangible skills that I possess and to find the best home for them. The good news is, I truly feel like I am just inches away from getting there. *Cough* Did I mention my project Up Speak?

Who was your biggest influence and why?
The person I consistently seek input and feedback from is my amazing best friend Elisa. We’ve been through so many stages of life together (ever since the 3rd grade!) that we know each other in a deep-rooted, historic way. Aside from sharing many values and interests, a strong element to our relationship is that we make decisions in different ways. If I am the “Why?”, she is the “How”. She is someone I look to when I need clarity about which way to move, as she’s a genius at breaking an issue down to its most important elements. She’s a crazy smart, modest, go-getter and someone who I plan on rocking my chair next to in retirement!

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

One of the most challenging things I’ve had to do is admit to myself that the life I was living didn’t feel like my own. I quit or changed my job and moved away from friends not once but twice in order to maintain romantic relationships. Separating myself from people I loved but who ultimately were not going to be my “forever guys” was incredibly difficult, but it was necessary to find a path that felt like my own.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

When I look back at my former selves, I feel empathy for them. I think this is the biggest reason why I don’t have regrets. If I’ve ever done something that didn’t have a net positive result, I can flip back to that time in my mind and still understand why I chose to do what I did.

Plus, I’m happy where I am now and I think there’s truth to acknowledging that all the little moments, even the false steps, contribute to where you currently stand.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

I remember a night when Elisa and I had a most depressing dinner that ended in laughter. That night, we picked some greens from the house’s garden and took some eggs from the chicken in the front yard to frugally make dinner. I was crashing her house sitting gig in Berkeley after having returned from a year in Spain. I was jobless and she was working part-time. We were both single and feeling unlucky in love. We got quiet at one point, chewing in silence, and then lamented that we were feeling so pathetic and lost. Since the only other option was to cry, we just laughed really hard about it.

Yeah, that’s how I think I’ll remember my 20s — constantly trying to figure things out but having a lot of fun doing it!

Schoolin’ Life: Duretti Hirpa

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we catch up with senior software engineer Duretti Hirpa.

Duretti Hirpa

Who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

My name is Duretti Hirpa, and I’m a senior software engineer at Slack. I’m unabashedly into people, Beyoncé, snacks, and the ever changing role of technology in our lives. I spend my days making Slack better, working on my snack podcast (snackoverflow), as well as trying to make the tech industry a more welcoming and equitable place for lady-identified and/or marginalized people.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Growing up, I was inordinately obsessed with being an “adult”. Now that I’m here, I realize we’re mostly winging it. Additionally, my expectations were really normative – spouse, baby, house, but conversely, I told myself my twenties were for me, that I get every year in my twenties to myself, to figure out what it was I wanted and how to get there.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I come from a family of immigrants (shout out to East Africa), and as such, I had a lot of dissonant societal views coming at me: women should have a career, but being married with babies is your most crucial function. It took me a long time to see myself separate and apart from my family, or as something more than a potential wife and mother.

What was your first job like?

I moved to the Bay Area in 2008, at the very beginning of the recession. I had just graduated from university, and had approximately $500 to my name. I found a contract position at an educational startup and I felt so lucky to have found something that I could live on (years later, I’d find out that it wasn’t that much, and I was supposed to be withholding taxes from my paycheck. Tax season 2009 was rough). The job itself was mostly scut work, but I felt so thrilled to be earning money at something I truly liked. I couldn’t help but feel I getting away with something.

What was your first apartment like?

My family is quite a large one, and we have always loved the hustle and bustle of living with others; as such I’ve never lived alone. After graduating, I lived with a friend from university who had done all the leg work – she found the apartment, she got the lease sorted, all of the adult unpleasantries that go with finding a place to live (shout out to Kristen). It was a two-bedroom, one bath apartment. It was carpeted and homey. We hung our handmade crafts on the walls. It was located in a huge complex with lots of children, and a tiny, tiny dive bar in the parking lot.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Not really. Worked, paid student loans; rinse, repeat. (I don’t really have an answer for this one!)

In what ways did your friendships change?

Growing up, I believed that the friends you made in college were your “forever friends”, and as such, I had a hard time leaving university and learning to put down roots elsewhere. Eventually, I learned that the people who really care about you figure out ways to keep in touch, conversely, it’s possible to feel intensely lonely while you make friends in your new city. It gets better, though.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

That we all play at intimacy, and embodying true vulnerability and acceptance is the hardest thing we do as people. In the words of Rilke:

“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

How did your relationships with your family change?

I grew closer to my siblings, and learned to humanize instead of idealize my parents. We’re all human people trying to make it as best we can.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I’m not sure! What I do think is that I stopped caring how it viewed me. I think if I concentrate too long on how I’m viewed by others, I wouldn’t done the things I’ve done (talk about your classic extrovert’s dilemma: act first, question later). I think I spend a far greater amount of time struggling with how I view myself.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I think I got better at self-regulation. That being said, there’s something to being unregulated. When I was younger, I made decisions with a lighter heart. I’d like to still have the wisdom that comes from making those choices and the bravery to do so.

How did you change intellectually?

I think I wanted to see the receipts more. I still pretty much believe everything I read in books though.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

It’s like the title of the David Lipsky book about David Foster Wallace – “Although of course you end up becoming yourself”. I was always me, things just settled more into place.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I think got WOKE. Most of my early and mid twenties were spent trying to answer the question, “How should a person be?” I wrote lists and lists of admirable qualities, and tried to become the kind of person that embodies those qualities. I became more accepting of the humanity in others, but more skeptical of the systems we put in place.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Urnmf. I’m not sure! They probably have to do with being interested in someone and being shot down? You get over the intensity of that, too.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

Yikes. I’m an intensely positive person. I don’t tend to dwell on disappointments (and I’m having trouble recalling one now). I’m of the attitude that if there’s a set back, that’s fine: there’s always gonna be setbacks. You can’t let it derail you. Ever forward, and all that. Ultimately, I’m stubborn, and once I truly make up my mind about a thing I want to accomplish, there’s very little that can stand in my way.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

It’s lonely being The Only One in the Room. I think the younger kids are more woke, they have this catchphrase, “you can’t be what you can’t see” – professionally, I don’t know of anyone that’s been my biggest influence. I guess my answer will be Beyoncé. The answer is always Beyoncé.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Michael Jackson died, and with it, a bit of my childhood. There’s a passage from Nick Hornby’s About a Boy that sums it up perfectly:

He hadn’t been shocked by the death of a pop star since Marvin Gaye died. He had been… how old? He thought back. the first of April 1984… Jesus, ten years ago, nearly to the day. So he had been twenty-six, and still of an age when things like that meant something: he probably sang Marvin Gaye songs with his eyes closed when he was twenty-six. Now he knew pop stars committing suicide were all grist to the mill, and the only consequence of Kurt Cobain’s death as far as he was concerned was that Nevermind would sound a lot cooler. Ellie and Marcus weren’t old enough to understand that, though. They would think it all meant something, and that worried him.

I was 23 the summer Michael died.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Of course – that’s thing about moving linearly through time: you never know if the decisions you make are the right ones. I cheer myself up by thinking about the multiverse version of Duretti, who has made the choice that I ultimately didn’t go with. It helps me be less indecisive, strangely, to think that some other version of myself is doing the other thing I’m waffling on.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

Not really..! Maybe a montage of increasingly vigorous eye-rolls at people telling dad jokes?

Schoolin’ Life: Sabrina Majeed

In today’s edition of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know designer Sabrina Majeed.

Sabrina

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I grew up in North Texas in a very white, very Southern Baptist school district. I’m half Chinese, half Pakistani and was raised as an only child in an Islamic household, and it was very lonely. I was the only kid who didn’t eat pepperoni pizza or didn’t go to church. My dad’s side of the family put so many restrictions on what I could and couldn’t wear. I realize that I still had a very privileged upbringing but at the time, everything felt unfair. My parents got divorced when I was eight, which was very hard for me, but after that, my mom’s views on Islam seriously relaxed. I became very “Americanized” and loved it. I knew the expectations for me on my dad’s side were to stay in Texas and go to college, but to meet a husband, not to build a career for myself. I’m not really ‘bout that life, so there’s always been a drive inside of me to prove them wrong. In a way, society’s expectations only gave me higher expectations for myself.

What was your first job like?

While I don’t regret leaving my first job, I do think I took it for granted while I was there. I was fresh out of design school and all my friends were getting jobs at well- known design studios or start-ups. I ended up working at Intuit on small business accounting tools. Very sexy. I spent a lot of my time wishing I was working on something more consumer-facing or having angst over their very corporate style guide. Looking back on it though, that experience has really shaped the rest of my career. People like to bash on big companies but having since worked at some dysfunctional small start-ups, I can say that I know what a healthy and professional work environment should look like and I know what standards to hold future employers to. Also, Intuit gave me complete creative freedom and the opportunity to work on my first iPhone app when that was still a relatively new platform, which basically catapulted my career as a designer and gave me a nice niche to establish myself in. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

What was your first apartment like?

When I think of my first apartment, I think of the first one I lived in by myself. I had been living in San Francisco in a spacious and affordable apartment with two other women, only paying $1000 a month. After some time, I got this strong desire to nest — to start investing in furniture and put effort into decorating my home. I found a tiny one bedroom in Alamo Square for almost twice as much as what I had been paying, though still a steal by today’s standards. It was kind of like a dollhouse; all the rooms were very small, but the bedroom even had bay windows and french doors! I even started my own blog documenting my decorating efforts. Sadly, I only lived there for six months because then I got an offer to move to NYC for work. Now that I’ve had a taste of NYC real estate, I’m pretty sure that losing that little one bedroom is going to haunt me for life.

Did you experience any big life changes?

I went through a really bad break-up in my early 20’s. It wasn’t even my longest or most significant relationship, but I had basically been going from one serious monogamous relationship into another. I had never been truly on my own before and when it happened unexpectedly, I was terrified and devastated that my life wasn’t turning out the way I thought it would. I couldn’t have gotten through it without my best friend. We were newly single around the same time and we learned to embrace it. We got into all kinds of trouble, but it was fun and incredibly freeing. I’m in a relationship now but I still look back on those two years I was single and am like… that. was. the. shit. I have so many crazy memories that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. I really came out of that break-up a lot more independent and not just comfortable, but happy, to be alone.

How did your relationships with your family change?

As I grow older, I’ve become increasingly more sentimental about my family. When I graduated high school, I wanted to get as far away from my hometown as possible. I was pretty sure I would never move back to Texas, yet lately I’ve been thinking about eventually doing just that. I think I needed that space and some distance to really appreciate what I have, which is incredibly supportive parents who have come to trust me and my decisions. My mom was also older than average when she had me, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more acutely aware of that and wish that we could spend more time together.

How do you feel society viewed you?

As someone markedly different, which could be good and bad. It was bad-different growing up in north Texas. I got used to being people’s token “ethnic” friend growing up, and their first exposure to a non-Caucasian lifestyle. When I went to college and eventually San Francisco afterwards, people seemed to think my mixed-race background was cool and unique. I liked that it set me apart from everyone else. Eventually though, it got to a point where people— men in particular— would fixate on that, which felt weird. They’ll say things like, That’s a rare mix; I’ve never encountered one of you before” which makes me feel more like an endangered animal than a person.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

As a kid, and even into my college years, my identity was very conservative. I always tried to do things by the book. I was very shy in high school and actively avoided standing out so I never broke any rules, and didn’t really challenge authority or even myself. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about the tech industry, but at the same time, working in this industry in my 20’s has made me much more comfortable taking risks, challenging assumptions, and having the confidence to do my own thing regardless of what other people think about it. Every risk I’ve taken in my 20’s has paid off and the more that happens, and the more positive reinforcement I get, it becomes easier to just do what I feel like instead of overthinking it.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I definitely entered my twenties believing in meritocracy, and the idea that you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and if you weren’t successful, you weren’t trying hard enough. I also had a very individualist every-woman-for-herself mentality and approach to my career. In my early 20’s, I would hear women complaining about the workplace and I just didn’t get what the big deal was, but the thing is my expectations were so different and so much lower for how my career should look as an entry-level designer. I was just happy to be there. Eventually, you grow, and that’s not enough and I began to understand what all these other women were talking about. Then I realized it’s not just women; there’s so many different vectors that affect one’s livelihood such as race, orientation, and ableness, and merit has a lot less to do with it than most people would like to believe. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely come to embrace the fact that I am a bleeding heart liberal, which is something I felt but actively tried to suppress showing early in my twenties.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

There’s a story about London, which is a city that has a lot of meaning to me. In my early twenties, I dated three different guys from the UK. My friends still make fun of me for it; I guess I had a type. There was a common theme where they each talked about the idea of taking me to London or having me visit. In one of those relationships, I was actually in the early stages of planning a trip when we broke up, which sucked because it was something I was really looking forward to that now felt out of reach. I hadn’t travelled that much at this point in my life. About a half a year later though, I ended up getting accepted to speak at a design conference in London. It was my first time public speaking and my first time traveling alone internationally, and I think it’s so much more romantic that I made it there on my own merits instead of going with some guy— especially the type of guys I liked in my early 20s. Turns out, I really enjoyed traveling alone, too. It’s a very significant story to me because it taught me that I don’t need to wait for someone else to go after the things I want in life. I’m very capable of doing it on my own.

Blogshop: Taking the Sting Out of Web Design

If you haven’t heard, I’m head over heels for Creative Mornings. There’s nothing better than kicking off the day with a cup of coffee and interesting insights from people who love to make and do things. What’s even better is that I can watch them anywhere. Thanks to their video series and web interface, you don’t need to live in any of the 112 cities that host the series. This past Monday, I listened to designlovefest and Blogshop founder Bri Emery discuss her career trajectory.

briandangela

After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, Emery dreamed of joining the magazine world at Nylon. Instead, she took a position with headphone company V-MODA and spent 2.5 post-grad years designing their packaging and marketing materials. In her free time, she threw herself into her blog, designlovefest. Eventually, she left her full-time job to freelance at Rue Magazine, the Game Show Network, and countless other clients. Although she constantly worried she would run out of jobs, Emery’s schedule was packed with projects.

Eventually, Emery found the sweet spot between work and play that culminated in Blogshop. As a freelancer, Emery’s inbox was inundated with emails asking her to design blogs. While she didn’t have the time to fulfill all the requests, she spoke to her friend and partner, Angela Kohler, about teaching a basic Photoshop class that answered frequently asked questions. Together, the pair developed a boot-camp for Photoshop with a critical eye for how these skills about to creating blog content. Over a two day period, students are thrown in the deep end and assigned a series of tasks designed to get them up to speed in a flash. Since founding Blogshop in 2011, Emery and Kohler have taught workshops in Paris, Berlin, Sydney, London, NYC, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco. Judging from the testimonials, graduates come away with the tools they need to transform ephemeral ideas into tangible projects.

I appreciate Blogshop because Angela and Bri take the sting out of web design and teach students the tools to do it themselves. Too often, it’s assumed that building a website or designing something digitally should be left to the professionals. But with a two day crash course in the basics, Blogshop inspires students to give it a shot and sets the groundwork for further learning.

Want to see if your boss will spot your Blogshop tuition? Print out their handy one sheet extolling the virtues of blogging skills. By investing in you, Bri and Angela argue, your company saves out outside design expenses, increases web traffic, and may result in increased emotional connections to your brand. And don’t worry if you’re not near an upcoming workshop location. If you have an Internet connection, you can also participate in their online module.

Finally, pour a mug of coffee and start your Wednesday off right with Bri’s Creative Mornings lecture. She may be a young entrepreneur, but she shares some excellent insights.

Girls Who Code

Don’t think we’ve forgotten about our resolutions just because it’s February. As we pass through the middle of the month, it’s time to highlight another donation-worthy organization. For our February dose of philanthropy, we made a donation to Girls Who Code, an organization working to build girls’ confidence and tech skills.

girlswhocode1

Photo courtesy of Girls Who Code

Founded by Reshma Saujani, Girl Who Code aims to close the gender gap in technical fields. According to their website, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist jobs available in 2020; based on current self reporting, only 30% of girls who are exposed to computer science actually pursue a career in the field. Girls Who Code hopes to bridge that 20% gap and encourage women to 700,000 of those jobs.

girlswhocode

To combat the problem, Girls Who Code organizes a seven week intensive summer program that stretches well beyond hard coding skills. The program also features talks presented by respected female engineers, field trips to startups and established tech companies and mentorship opportunities with some of the field’s top women. In the past, standout candidates have received job offers, allowing them to use their web development skills part-time on real clients’ web sites. How’s that for a summer job?

Currently, most Girls Who Code summer programs take place on the East and West coasts. But if you’re in the middle of the country or outside the United States, you can spearhead a club in your own town. While the organization is too young to gauge its full impact, 94% of participants in their summer immersion program reported that they were interested in pursuing a career in computer science. To further their efforts, we just made our February donation in their honor. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter and, if you like what they do, perhaps you’ll consider making a donation, too.

Wikipedia, Art and Feminism

Last week, I came across this article on Medium discussing the dynamics of Wikipedia. As the sixth most popular website in the world, Wikipedia stands out because the upper echelons of its editorship are all volunteers. (I recommend reading the article, as it delves into the system of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that power the organization.) At its core is a group of 36 stewards with all-access privileges to all things Wiki. They are responsible for enforcing the rules, managing user privileges, and serving as a resource for lower level editors. While their responsibilities are great, the group remains fairly anonymous. Although nearly all the stewards are polyglots who represent five continents and 22 countries, this important group chooses to blend in with the rest of the community.

1460241_1489028694711036_1052697304108736039_n

Yet in spite of this linguistic and ethnic diversity, there are still some gaping holes. Participation across Africa is lacking compared to other continents. Also, out of the current 36 stewards, only one is a woman. There is not just a disparity amongst the stewards; between 84 and 91% of all Wikipedia editors are men. Several proposed reasons suggest that perhaps it is because women lack the free time to contribute, the self-confidence required to assert themselves, or the trust in Wikipedia to take their edits seriously. Whether any of these explanations have some basis in truth is still up for debate. In addition to a lack of women editors, pages about men tend to outnumber those about women. Speaking from experience, I noticed a marked gap when constructing our Hall of Dames page; in particular, articles about women of color outside the United States are sparse at best or nonexistent at worst. We can do better!

ArtAndFeminismNYC-Generations

Art+Feminism hopes to take on the gender gap and encourage more women to become Wikipedia editors. They’ve accumulated a wealth of resources and organized multiple training sessions to help women grow comfortable with the interface. Wikimedia just awarded Art+Feminism over $11,000 to fund another training event in March. Congratulations! Not able to make the training sessions? Not to worry; check out their online guides to getting started as a Wikipedia editor. If my schedule allows, I hope to attend the next NYC edition; if so, I’ll provide a full report.

Jjiguène in Tech

Like many countries worldwide, Senegal’s tech industry is fairly male-dominated. While policy-makers the world over debate government initiatives to encourage women in STEM professions, 24 year-old Coudy Binta De decided to attack the problem herself. In 2012, she and three other programming friends launched Jjiguene Tech Hub in Dakar. (Jjiguene means “women” in Wolof, the dialect spoken across much of Senegal.)

Jjiguene Tech1

Image from Jjiguene Tech Hub

Jjiguene’s program is part technical instruction and part mentorship. The group recognizes that in order to thrive in a male-dominated field, women need to be assertive and confident in their abilities. Once a month, guest speakers share their knowledge and answer questions in front of an audience. While most web development classes occur in the capital, the group also travels around the country running clinics at elementary and secondary schools.

Jjiguene Tech 2

An image from Code Camp 2013 from Jjiguene Tech Hub

As women grow more confident and technically skilled, Jjiguene encourages them to participate in competitions. Their site mentions initiatives like She Leads Africa, an open call for startup business proposals, and the Young Innovators competition, a project sponsored by the UN that encourages solving complex problems with open source technology.

For more information, check out their website, follow them on Twitter, or give them a shout on Facebook.