A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending the first Women Techmakers event at Google DC – for women of color. This event titled “Telling Our Story: Changing the Game and Claiming Our Space” and was held simultaneously worldwide. I’ve been to the Google DC offices a few times before, and I’m always in awe at the intentional representation of women of color in attendance at the events, working the events and the speakers they invite to speak at the events.
When Solange dropped “A Seat at the Table” last fall, I know that I wasn’t the only black woman who had a collective sigh of relief and a little bit of hope.
More than just an album, it felt like a manifesto of what it means to be a black woman in society. Often in the technology space, women of color, in general, are overlooked underpaid and not regularly affirmed. We seek mentors. We search for leaders who look like us, who shape their futures and lay the path for us to follow.
I’ve got to tell you- five years ago it was really hard to connect with leaders who looked like me and did the work like me. Many spaces and conferences have changed, I can have an open dialog with women who feel comfortable in an area that’s for them – feels affirming.
There’s much more work to do.
If you weren’t in the room at the Women Techmakers event, you truly missed out. No worries though, I’ve got you covered.
When we arrived, we were greeted with a snazzy check in, PhotoWall and tons of food. Kicking myself that I didn’t get a picture of the food – but understand it was delicious!
Soon after, we took our seats in the main auditorium and kicked back with some jams until we were warmly greeted by Aerica Banks, a Patent Strategy and Policy Analyst at Google DC. She lit up the room with bright personality and was the first to let us know that we were in for a treat!
The Fireside Chat – Women Techmakers
The first fireside chat was Dr. Winnette McIntosh Ambrose & Malika Saada Saar with interesting backgrounds and journeys. Dr. Winnette McIntosh Ambrose started the traditional path as an engineer, graduating from MIT and obtaining a patent for the first FDA-approved device for carotid stenting. Bad ass, right? She flipped the script and opened The Sweet Lobby in June of 2011, during the last year of her postdoctoral fellowship. Her passion grew and took her talents to winning the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and taking The Sweet Lobby from neighborhood treasure to national brand.
Malika Saada Saar is Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights, and her journey is remarkable as well. Before joining Google, Malika was the co-founder, and Executive Director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), a human rights organization focused on gender-based violence against young women and girls in the U.S.
Malika also led the effort to shut down Craigslist sex ads that promoted trafficking of children for sex, ended the federal practice of shackling pregnant mothers behind bars in U.S. prisons, and successfully advocated for millions in federal funding for treatment services for at-risk families.
CLAP IT UP RIGHT HERE!
After getting over how BOSS they both were, we jumped into the conversation of the intersectionality of women of color in the industry, the balance between life/work and staying true to yourself. I soaked it all in as the speakers documented their journeys into STEM, connections with Google and it was truly inspirational.
Dreamcasting with Demma Rosa Rodriguez – Women Techmakers
Demma Rosa Rodriguez, our spotlight speaker, brought the house down with her raw but remarkable story of her journey as the child of teenage parents who by any standard, anyone looking at her life, would have written her off at birth. I can’t even do her talk justice – you just had to be there! Here’s a clip of just a bit of the magic.
After an impromptu, Beyonce dance break, Olivia Ma, moderated the panel, Channeling Your Passion Into a Fully Realized Career, with Aisha Bowe, Co-Founder and CEO, STEMBoard, Jana Landon, Diversity Intern Programs Recruiter and Black Girls Code Relationship Manager, Google, and Sabrina Williams, Software Engineer, US Digital Service.
The conversation flowed, and I was able to catch a little bit of the panel – check the video below!
Aisha’s story about manifesting her life – one small thing gave her the confidence to create her legacy. It was her message and THIS moment that made me realize…all fear and procrastination (yep, I said it) are ALL IN YOUR MIND.
Closing Remarks – Women Techmakers
Charlaé Washington, diversity programs specialist at Google, closed out the event by giving us a bit of insight behind the planning of this event and how important it is for conversations and decisions to happen with the people that are directly affected by it. She also mentioned that she pushed for this Women Techmakers to be Women of Color exclusively – and for that sis, I thank you!
No blog post or video can capture the magic and POWER that was in the room that night. I’m thankful for the connections made, and I look forward to documenting some of the stories I gathered on a later episode of the Rise and Grind Series.
If you ever get a chance to attend a Women Techmakers event in your city, GO. You won’t regret it.
Even if you got pulled off the bench to play in the final four – the experience is worth more than a gold trophy.