Last week International Women's Day commemorated the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women. It also served as a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights and violence against women. To celebrate the day, if not all of Women's History Month, the Female Quotient -- a female-owned business led by Shelley Zalis that advances equality in the workplace through the power of collaboration and bringing visibility to women, activating solutions for change and creating metrics for accountability -- presented a full day of discussions about all of the issues mentioned above, and more. MediaVillage livestreamed the whole event, which can be viewed in its entirety at FQInsites.com.
Ronda Carnegie, Chief Innovation Officer for the FQ, led a discussion with a group of female coders. The group included Valeria and Kiyara Torres-Olivares, a high school and college student duo who cofounded Code Equal, a non-profit offering self-identified girls an opportunity to grow and learn in the coding space; Manoela Morais, a proud Brazilian, who offered problem-solving methods pairing technology and agriculture; engineer Ruth Davis, the director of Call for Code for IBM, which works to bring women into IBM’s coding departments and open-source technologies, and Nicole Pitter Patterson, a development economist and the co-founder of the Caribbean Girls Hack who works to encourage girls to grow into women who take or create a seat at the table. Patterson has adult daughters to whom she has given gender neutral names and has prioritized gender inclusion in her own home as well as in her workplace. Her work with small enterprises and businesses has focused on a societal understanding of the importance of women in the coding space.
These women talked about the opportunities and challenges of being a woman working in the coding industry. They also discussed the impact of 2020’s many fights against systemic racism and how technology worked within this. Davis’ IBM team chose to work after hours to find seven solutions. These are now being connected to developers globally to promote inclusion and justice. One example is a program that partners Black clients with public defenders to access resources for reducing incarceration rates and unfairly long sentences.
Another example of "tech for good" focuses on solving food insecurity, especially in the Caribbean. Patterson talked about how technology can bring new solutions to lessen food waste. She acknowledged the importance of coding challenges and competition that bring personal satisfaction and attention to these crucial ideas as well as awareness of new concepts and technological opportunities.
Valeria and Kiyara Torres-Olivares noted that hearing these stories inspires young girls to consider technology and coding as a path for them. Knowing they are being looked up to can also further encourage adult coders, making this a cyclical process where everyone succeeds.
Morais included thoughts that technology is essential year round -- not just during International Women’s Day -- in bringing women together from a variety of nations, all working to achieve the same goals and sharing many of the same experiences of having to overcome gender diversity and bias.
The collective also discussed the importance of youth activism. The Torres-Olivareses shared that their heartbeat moment began at their first class, when the attendance grew more quickly than ever anticipated and demonstrated a real opportunity for change. This moment allowed them to envision that their program can impact those who are in marginalized racial communities. They pointed out that there remain very few BIPOC within the coding world, something they are working to change, yet they also highlighted how beneficial it has been for their students to learn in an all-female environment via classes, hackathons and coding events.
As the hourlong conversation closed, the panelists reinforced that women-driven classes, programming and challenges serve those who value working in a collective, non-threatening environment. Patterson ended with this: “You are never too young to lead and you are never too old to learn.”
Those wishing to watch this session and others in their entirety can view the full FQ International Women’s Day content at FQInsites.com.
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