Lesbians Who Tech Edie Windsor

Lesbians Who Tech pack 5th annual summit in San Francisco

8 min read
Stacey DePolo

With disruption so essential to business success, it's smart to recruit tech talent from communities adept at overcoming challenges. GoDaddy recently joined an impressive array of tech brands sponsoring the 5th annual Lesbians Who Tech Summit, the largest gathering for women in tech in California, and the largest LGBTQ professional event in the world.

Comedian Samantha Bee, of Full Frontal and Daily Show fame, showed up to recruit developers for her new app to gamify the 2018 midterm elections. Sam described the summit as, “The crystallization of my entire worldview in one place.”

I have to agree with her. I've attended many LGBTQ events over the last 20 years in San Francisco’s Castro, where the three-day summit was held. Women are seldom more than 10 percent of the crowd. This was the first time I have ever been to a conference surrounded by that many other queer women, and it was rad.

Women Who Tech GoDaddy United Squad
GoDaddy United members (L-R) Ashten Fizer, DJ Shorty and Stacey DePolo at the Castro Theater during the Lesbians Who Tech event in San Francisco.
Photo: Stacey DePolo

The Lesbians Who Tech Summit was sold out and the historic Castro Theater was packed with queer women, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, all vying for a chance to connect with speakers celebrating the power of lesbian technologists.

Hard work on the part of organizers to ensure diversity created a badass vibe. Unlike every other tech space I've ever been part of, we were mostly queer, half women of color and 15 percent trans and gender non-conforming. A local mayoral candidate even worked her way onto the agenda for the chance to get in front of the 5,000 lesbians and allies attending the summit.

Lesbians Who Tech GoDaddy Squad
The GoDaddy Squad poses with Lesbians Who Tech Summit founder Leanne Pittsford.

Summit founder Leanne Pittsford spoke passionately about her inspiration to start and grow the event: economic empowerment of lesbians.

Technology is key to claiming economic power.

Leanne's work with the nonprofit Equality California, and her own startup, Leanimpact.org, taught her how key technology is to claiming economic power. It's a driving force behind her work.

When your north stars align

In my role as a Social Media Manager for GoDaddy, I track issues women and the LGBTQ community face in the tech world and how our company is working to address them. As I watched people approaching the GoDaddy booth in the Edie Windsor Tech Pavilion, I wondered, as I assume they each did, which tech company was the best match. Why would a lesbian being courted by brands like SAP, Google, Oculus and Spotify consider us?

The answer is because of GoDaddy’s north star, and our unique position in the emerging algorithm economy, a hot topic of many keynotes at the summit.

Whether gay or straight, every person I work with at GoDaddy is motivated by the audacious idea that every person, no matter their position or skill, deserves the opportunity to share their ideas with the world. As we’re reminded on International Women’s Day each year, birth control was once a taboo subject, filtered out of public conversations by arbiters of “decency” that never reflected the actual diversity of those it sought to regulate.

Publishing and consuming content on sites we own is the only way we can ensure our voices will be not be censored in the debate over and regulation of “fake news.”

As long as someone is not threatening violence upon another or imposing an act on someone without their consent, GoDaddy supports and enables the right of everyone to register a domain and host a site that someone else might not like.

In the battle for effective algorithmic accountability on the internet, it’s essential for alternative communities — including lesbians and gender-nonconforming technologists — to have a platform to make our case.

An algorithm is a recipe, plain and simple.

We don’t always understand how these algorithms work, but they have enormous impact on our lives. There will always be a degree of bias. Powering our LGBTQ businesses and careers on GoDaddy technology, and publishing first on our own/owned sites, is one way to ensure that our perspectives are not erased, and our agenda is realized.

Making audacious, life-fulfilling ventures possible through technology is what we do.

Women in tech at GoDaddy have an unprecedented opportunity to make a mark in the industry while having excellent healthcare and work-life balance.

Recently named one of the top 10 Best Companies to Work for in the Bay Area, GoDaddy employees are motivated by a mission, policies, and a strong internal culture that encourages us to show up authentically every day.

Showing up powerfully online

GoDaddy makes it easy to look great online, and our booth offered a way to look good in pictures. Many attendees stopped by to take selfies with our fancy halo lighting and props. Samantha Bee showed up and took selfies with our crew.

The 15 women who staffed our booth included members of our GoDaddy United Employee Resource Group and our recruiting team looking to hire engineers.

At the TechCrawl event the first evening, we got a chance to show off GoCentral, our new modular website builder that makes it stupid easy to create your own mobile-friendly website in under an hour.

Our squad of lesbians and allies spent three days in the cold and rain looking for more audacious queers to join us. We had a blast meeting job seekers and customers.

Being your own unicorn

Ashten Fizer anchored our presence at the summit with her talk on
Self-Care: Being Your Own Unicorn.” Ashten had to find her way into tech without any role models to guide her. After college she became frustrated working for politicians in Chicago who didn't live up to their promises. She found her way into tech all on her own, mastering social media as a deejay.

Today, Ashten is a web designer for GoDaddy, a keynote speaker and a legendary leader of our GoDaddy Black in Technology (GDBIT) group. Hanging out over drinks after her talk I learned that Ashten is thinking of joining the recent surge of female candidates running for office. Who knows? This might be how we end up realizing Leanne's dream of a black lesbian president.

Technology and democracy

The power of technology to disrupt democracy was the subject of several sessions. Recode’s Kara Swisher grilled Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on the role ads on their platform played in the 2016 U.S. elections. While Sheryl said that the company has 20,000 people working on a solution, she offered few specifics on how the company will solve the problem.

Jessica McGlory, director of Paid Social at Jellyfish, said that we can expect spending on social ads designed to manipulate elections to expand, not contract. She offered one tangible solution: Make better use of new innovations in targeted paid social ads to impact people's opinions on the issues.

Sally Kohn, podcaster, author and leftist lesbian commentator on Fox News & CNN, called herself and our whole community out for often being judgmental online towards people who hate on us. To repair humanity, she said, we must “Be the light of kindness in the shitty, dark internet.” Sally’s new book, The Opposite of Hate, details her story and explains how to master connection speech and turn trolls into allies with humor.

Lesbians Who Tech founder Leanne Pittsford ended her talk with some key advice:

“Don't wait for things to be perfect.”

She didn't wait till another LGBTQ tech conference figured out how to attract more women. She created her own event with exemplary diversity, no matter how difficult that was.

As a result, we now have more than 1,000 Lesbians Who Tech speakers as role models, and they are not all white. Companies have a place to recruit queer women adept at programming and overcoming challenges. No more excuses.

Speaking of things not being perfect, one keynote that stood out relates to everyone reading this post who has the challenge and opportunity to change the search results and role models for young women considering STEM careers.

Musician and activist Madame Gandhi closed out her keynote at the summit declaring that we can be feminine and still be powerful: “Day by day, we write the soundtrack to the story we want to be told.”

Lesbians Who Tech GoDaddy United Golden Gate Bridge
The GoDaddy United team from Arizona fit in a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge ahead of the career fair on Saturday.
Photo: Stacey Davis

Note about feature image: This photo collage made up of social posts from the event honored Edie Windsor, LGBT rights activist and a technology manager at IBM.

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