feature image via Lesbians Who Tech.
It’s been a week since the Lesbians Who Tech summit in San Francisco ended and I’m still hungover. Not from alcohol, but from THE FEELS. It’s a gathering of queer women in and around the tech industry organized by Leanne Pittsford, and the most lesbians in tech you’ll encounter in a conference, EVER. As a developer, my excitement knew no bounds during the stellar programming that damn near shut down Castro and the Mission — I was surrounded by intelligent women just like me, thriving in a cis- and male-dominated industry.
— Marine Rome (@MarineRom) February 27, 2016
— Lesbians Who Tech (@lesbiantech) March 3, 2016
The energy I felt hanging around queer women in my career field was like riding a roller coaster on a sunny day. Thursday was a short tech crawl at local bars in Castro and badge pick-up at the Castro Theatre. Ladies were milling around throughout Castro, and for an area that’s saturated with gay men, it was quite a sight to see for the locals. People stopped in the street and surrounding the theatre to take pictures as ladies chopped it up and found their friends among those picking up badges. Friday was the big day, with a full house in Castro Theatre for the more ‘conferencey’ part of the summit.
Lesbians…lesbians as far as the eye can see. #LWTSUMMIT
— Arlan (@ArlanWasHere) February 27, 2016
During the speaker sessions, I felt wave after wave of the thought, “I’m not the ONLY ONE. I’m not alone in this industry. There are others like me who go through the same struggles to be accepted in the workplace. We’re a community. We’re united in our differences.” That energy almost tangibly swelled throughout the auditorium during the main conference day, and the excited cheers during Leanne’s keynote address took this momentum home. She made bold statements about how our world would look if equality was embraced. “If the world were more like Lesbians Who Tech, the world would be a better place.”
Told my Airbnb host I saw Edie Windsor. She hadn’t heard of her.. & then I found out she was also an IBM programmer in the 60s! #lwtsummit
— Corinne (@corinnepw) February 28, 2016
Edie Windsor, our collective adopted grandmother and former IBM developer/Supreme Court DOMA case plaintiff, made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when she talked about her sweet lesbian romance and being out in a conservative time. Space Joy made us squeal while talking about launching and landing a rocket, Angelica Ross discussed what it was like to be openly trans in tech, and more.
— Ariel Koren (@ariel_koko) February 26, 2016
— Sophia Lee (@GeekGirl1024) February 27, 2016
So true! “If we don’t have LGBT/PoC in executive positions, things just won’t happen.” -Heather Hiles #lwtsummit
— Lyn Muldrow (@LynMuldrow) February 26, 2016
The best part for me as a black woman and lesbian developer, in a space where there are even fewer of us present in the workplace, was to see fellow black developers of all gender expressions as speakers, mentors, and conference goers. There were tons of random hugs among black women because were were just plain happy to see each other. I made some new friends, met some fellow writers, and cheered as Leanne gave us a shout-out, too:
— Lesbians Who Tech (@lesbiantech) February 27, 2016
This feeling of cohesion and community continued even through the social events that happened after the big conference. On Saturday we headed to Twitter HQ for a day of workshops and job hunting, with companies offering varying levels of swag. I think I came home with at least 12 tech company shirts, 5 pairs of shades, and 20 pens. There was a lot of excitement in the air, and the two main workshop rooms were full of women learning about entrepreneurship and leadership in tech, or coding and education in programming.
— Lyn Muldrow (@LynMuldrow) February 27, 2016
— Lesbians Who Tech (@lesbiantech) March 3, 2016
Speakers during the workshops on Saturday talked hacking your way into a job, intersectionality, unconscious bias, and more. One of the highlights was a panel giving us a bootcamp overview with some of the top bootcamps. I was excited to learn about the work of Floodgate Academy, a bootcamp started by Devaris Brown to train underrepresented students in DevOps (development operations engineers). We chatted about elitism in Ivy League education vs. non-traditional ‘bootcamp-style’ educational backgrounds, how to combat imposter syndrome, and how to use data to our advantage in growth hacking and programming workflows. While the day felt a little frazzled because of the huge amount of worthwhile information and the buzz of the career fair, I felt comforted being around a ton of folks who were forward thinking and wanted to improve our collective experience in the tech industry. It was a welcome breath of fresh air compared to the stale content that some other conferences offer up in regards to tough topics. The Lesbians Who Tech summit speakers weren’t afraid to ‘go there’ and challenge the status quo with ideas and introspection, and I appreciated that.
After Saturday’s day of workshops a huge group of us used the Lesbians Who Tech app, which connected conference attendees and shared social status updates, to orchestrate a trip to Mission bar El Rio on Saturday after the career fair and workshops at Twitter HQ.
Some folks trickled in early (as seen in this picture), but by around 8pm the bar was wall-to-wall lesbians and queer folks of varying levels of inebriation dancing to trap music, laughing, joking and meeting together without an argument or frown in sight. The vibe was so electric that I’m sure our scowls could be felt from blocks away when the bar closed for a private party.
Sunday rounded out the summit with a closing brunch and City Director interest meeting. There’s extension chapters of the organization in many different cities, and you can attend meetups and events catered to your local queer tech community. If you don’t have a chapter of Lesbians who Tech in your area and would like to, go start one!
The conference was intoxicating — the feeling of being understood as a human being in a career field that’s mainly homogeneous shouldn’t have ended there, but we knew we’d have to hold onto it on our own as we collectively traveled back to our offices, which aren’t quite as diverse. I traveled to San Francisco by myself for the summit, and although I expected to meet up with some friends while there, I’d never been in an atmosphere where I could strike up a deep conversation with the woman two seats across from me and make a friend for life, start a business venture, or toss around ideas for the next big thing. It felt like, for those few days in the increasingly volatile San Francisco, we were a huge family connected by this spirit of resilience and technical savvy. I didn’t want it to end, but luckily the next summit is September in NYC. Make sure to grab a seat next to me so we can feel all the feels, together!