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Women and Inclusion in Tech

March 19, 2018

 

The Voices That Must Be Heard

 

Have you ever felt excluded from a conversation? Tech is the biggest industry I live illustrate for, and there is a real need to include more voices from women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBT, and many other groups that have been historically excluded. Have you ever sat through a panel where there were no women on stage? Well the Consensys Lounge at SXSW 2018 did things differently... an all women panel talking about inclusion in technology! What a refreshing discussion, and my friend Amber Baldet (Blockchain Lead at JP Morgan) was one of the panelists. Enjoy their fantastic insights...

 

 
Internet of Value
 

I first heard the term "Blockchain" when I was graphic recording Don Tapscott's talk at SXSW 2015 (I remember I drew a way cool Bitcoin symbol on a Flava Flav chain). He described Blockchain as “An incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Since then, it has been the subject of many keynotes, but people are still confused as to what it means.  I see it as a new and improved version of the internet. What I find most interesting about the "Internet of Value" is the true ownership of your assets and data portability. Data distributed, but not copied. I'm sure there's a few creators in the world that are excited about that! This panel was made up of representatives from Black Girls Code, Women in Blockchain, JP Morgan, Fox News, Maqueta Inc, and Future/Perfect Venues - all women, all kick ass leaders! They started discussing the importance of decentralized currency, democratizing accessibility, and the inclusion barriers that exist in tech. 

 

Accessible Role Models
 

Most people need to see someone that looks like them, in the position they want, to believe they can make it happen for themselves. The panel was urging the excluded to: stand up, reclaim their space, and embrace their intersectionality. This reminded me of the "Death and the Maiden" talk (by the great Sarah Chavez) that I live illustrated at Death Salon, where she discussed how women (whom had been excluded from death care) were reclaiming their identity through resistance of the male dominated funeral industry. SXSW and Death Salon... 2 completely different events with shared insight! I love that!! 

 

Inclusion of women was the main focus of this panel, but the conversation is applicable to any group that feels they have been overlooked. In fact, they spent a good chunk of time talking about what diversity means, and I was happy they brought up people with disabilities. Even among diversity presentations, that's a group that is usually left out and it's very unfortunate. This is why it's important to talk about what diversity really means.

 

 
Diversity and Allies
 

Diversity benefits everyone, but what can males allies do to help women? Organizations need people with diversity of thought and experience. Are your leaders making inclusion a priority? Do they just send an occasional shout out on social media, or do they try and make real change? I found this entire section of the talk very interesting because there are people that mean well and want to help, but might not know how.

 

Taking Initiatives Seriously
 

I thought the idea of "tying funding to initiatives" was a very smart solution. You want that digital pay? Prioritize inclusion today! The panel discussed some inclusion initiatives, and stressed the importance of enforcing them. "Rules are only as good as enforcement" is a quote that stuck out in my mind. Have you ever been part of a meeting where the group is feeling pumped, you all agree on some steps to take in a positive direction, then after the meeting you all go back to your routines and forget about your initiatives? Tsk Tsk! The most successful meetings I have been a part of are when the initiatives are written out, with owners and deadlines. Holding each other accountable is the most important part of any plan, but it's usually overlooked. 

 

The women on this panel are role models! Follow them on Twitter: @jehmu, @AKaiMorton@AmberBaldet, @jalak, @BariAWilliams, and @NataliyaSNY

You can watch the video of this talk on the Consensys FB Page.

 

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