DIRECTOR’S THOUGHTS


Forbes Article Summary (CODE Debugs the Gender Gap in Tech)

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In making CODE documentary, it  is our mission to give the world a much needed wake-up call. For the past several decades females and people of color have been underrepresented in the technology industry.  Young women are deterred from pursuing computer science degrees by ingrained mindsets, obstacles in the educational system, and a lack of diverse role models.  By profiling successful women such as Danielle Feinberg of Pixar, Aliya Rahman of Code for Progress and Julie Ann Horvath of &Yet, we hope to inspire young women and show that a career in coding can be creative, lucrative and rewarding.   In her article in Forbes online magazine, contributor Esha Chhabra explores the enormous gender gap in the tech industry with two of CODE  documentary’s main contributors: Jocelyn Goldfein, former director of Engineering at Facebook and Danielle Feinberg head of photography and lighting at Pixar. Somewhere along the way, society deemed it “normal” to give boys Legos, train sets, and building blocks, but not girls. By the time women reach college, they have been turned off of computer science and convinced they don’t belong.  But women and people of color do belong in tech.  In fact they are desperately needed. Read the full...

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How to Bring Opportunity to Community

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This week at the Emmys, Viola Davis reminded us that, “the only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity”.  Clearly she was talking about women actors’ accessibility to leading roles in Hollywood, but her comment got me thinking about how this applies to all the arts and about access to viewing films as well. There is a certain irony that most film festivals began with the intention of sharing independent films with the community - bringing cinematic art to the people – yet have now become fairly exclusive events.  The enormous popularity of film festivals have turned what were once grass root gatherings into major Vanity Fair type events.  Regardless of the best intentions, film festivals tend to cater to the crème de la crème of the film world and society in general.  When known actors began appearing in independent films, and since known actors put butts in seats, film festivals began to screen films that might technically be indies, (i.e. non studio) but for all intents and purposes are Hollywood films. Right?  I mean, Jobs premiered at Sundance.  And this is all good – after all it’s kind of cool (literally and figuratively) to stand in line outside Eccles in Park City and see Ashton Kutcher step out of a Toyota Highlander.  But then again, I’m fortunate enough to be standing in line at Sundance.  What about those that don’t have this opportunity? Which brings me to Ambulante Film Festival.  Ambulante disrupts  the traditional structure of a film festival.  They’re a traveling film festival that brings free screenings of cause-based films to communities who typically would not attend a film festival or even go to a theater to see a documentary. Last week, thanks to Ambulante,  we screened CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap in Pershing Square Park on a Saturday night – in the warmth of California’s Indian summer and under a crescent moon – to 250 people from all corners of Los Angeles. People arrived on Muni, on foot, on bikes and on skateboards to watch our documentary about the importance of incorporating women and people of color in software engineering. They brought their kids, their pets (I swear I saw a cat on a leash), their picnics, their moms.  They spread blankets and soccer chairs on the lawn; they sat on concrete park benches and they watched a film about a subject they might or might not have know mattered to them.  The opportunity to watch a film was there, in open air, in downtown LA, for all to view. And because of this opportunity, there is a chance that the film sparked an interest or a seed of hope in someone in the audience.  What if  a Latina woman never thought she could enter the tech world but now wants to try?  What if a young kid who is disengaged in school is now inspired to learn to code?  What if someone in tech now thinks about his or her own biases?  What if? This is why we made the film - to inspire girls and people of color to believe they can contribute to technology.  To help bridge the gender gap and digital divide.  But our options to screen the film to the part of community we are trying to...

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4 reasons women don’t thrive in tech–and what we should do about them | TED Ideas

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We’ve all heard about the gender gap in tech. Women simply aren’t thriving in one of the most promising fields in the United States — and not for lack of talent. And here’s the truth: It’s not solely a problem for women. It’s a problem for men, too. In just five years, there will be a million unfilled computer science–related jobs in the United States, which according to our calculations could amount to a $500 billion opportunity cost. Tech companies are producing jobs three times faster than the U.S. is producing computer scientists. There are incredible opportunities here. We need women to help fill these jobs, and we need them now.   Read the whole...

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Fast Company Article Summary (The Fascinating Evolution of Brogramming and the Fight to get Women Back)

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If you take a close look at  tech companies in the Silicon Valley and in tech hubs around the country and world, it is evident the tech side of the tech industry is a male dominated environment. It wasn’t always this way. In the 1980’s women made up 37% of all computer programmers. So, why the drop off?   In my Fast company interview with Jane Porter, we take a closer look at the evolution of computer programming and how CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap is making it its’ mission to “understand why the coding industry can be so unwelcoming to women.” We discussed the impact of ingrained stereotypes and how the male-centric ambiance in technology companies act as a deterrent. Across 34 countries, 70% of men and women feel that science is more male than female. In reality, men are not innately better at math or science, it is actually deeply embedded cultural biases that create this perception.   As I said, "it really starts with our bringing boys home in blue blankets and bringing girls home in pink blankets.” But the issue goes beyond cultural biases and pink and blue blankets. The need and potential for female programmers, coders, and computer scientists is immense. In the next six years, there will be 1 million unfilled computer science jobs in the United States. It is time for women to break the stereotypes, be confident in their abilities and find their way back into the tech field, to continue the great contributions they have historically made to computer technology.   Read the full...

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Closing the Gap: Musings from a Female Engineer

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Women in technology – or the lack thereof – is a hot topic. Googling “women in tech” generates enough content to keep anyone busy; the internet raged with backlash to Barbie’s botched engineering career, and Always spent millions empowering women with their Super Bowl ad. Until recently, I was the only female engineer at Strava. By reflecting on my experiences I can better understand the gender gap, and by sharing my success I hope to prove to other women that they belong in technology.

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Catalyst and Cause – Parsing the Challenge of Gender in Tech

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A thoughtful companion piece to Tribeca Film Festival Announcement.   This morning it was announced that I was part of the executive producer team for the feature-length documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which is set to premiere next month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.  The film takes a critical look at why so many American women and minorities eschew careers in computer science, despite high paying and intellectually rewarding opportunities.  I’m incredibly humbled and proud to be amongst the ranks of Robin Hauser Reynolds and her production team in the mission to better understand the difficulties women face in tech.  Clearly articulating the challenge is the first true step to bridging the technology gender gap once and for all—and CODE moves us toward that goal in an engaging and artful...

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MITA Take-Aways

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I recently attended the 2014 MITA Tech Talks in Mexico.  This 2-day conference took place in gorgeous Punta de Mita, but was anything but a beachy boondoggle.  MITA is Mexico's answer to Allen & Co - bringing together international VIPs of the tech / VC worlds such as FLOODGATE's Mike Maples, PayPal's Carey Kolaja, Ascend's Jay Duncanson, Rally's Tom Serre, and Manatt's Peter Csathy.  The commonality amongst all is a realization of the potential of Mexico.  Guadalajara is fast becoming the Silicon Valley of Mexico and the capital of Latin America's growing IT industry. In fact, it occurred to me that the dearth of computer science engineers in the USA provides a unique opportunity for young Mexican technologists.  Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico's most prestigious engineering school, is graduating CS majors a year. In 2012, 28% of the graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction were women, and 46.8% of the science graduates in Mexico were women.  If Americans can't fill our own demand for programmers, why look as far as India and South Asia?  Maybe part of the solution, until we are able to generate more software engineers by improving our pipeline, is to look south, just across the...

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HR, listen up. Here’s how to attract more women and increase your diversity:

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Go back to kindergarten   It’s essential that computer science is introduced in early childhood education.  Studies show that girls and boys have an equal interest in computers at an early age - before cultural mindsets and stereotype work their way into the psyche of young girls.  By introducing computer science in K- 8th grade classrooms and making CS mandatory in high school, girls will develop a comfort and familiarity with computer science that will enable them to navigate the educational pipeline more effectively. Talk to Hollywood The number of women entering law school increased significantly when CSI became a popular series in the 1990’s.  Hollywood holds substantial influence over our youth, so creating female characters who are hot-shot Makers and techies will provide role models and will help change the stereotype that all coders are nerds and geeks. Lose the ‘tude If you want more women in your workplace, then you have to make the workplace comfortable for women.  Tech start-up culture seems so cool, with their ping pong tables, kegs of IPA and X-Box consoles.  But there needs to be ground rules to make women feel safe.  Minimal decencies. Take down the Lena poster, clean up the pizza boxes and appreciate that the woman coder next to you is just as likely to write the next brilliant string of code as...

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Women and the Internet

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This article illustrates the significant contribution women have made to the tech industry and to the internet in particular.  Why aren't these women famous outside the tech world, when the vast majority of humanity benefits from their inventions. 15 Women and How They Made The Internet...

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What we can learn about coding education from the UK

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Kudos to Twitter for coming out with their diversity numbers yesterday.  They are right on par with most Silicon Valley tech companies.  Full disclosure is the first step toward rectifying a situation - in this case the dearth of female and minority coders in America.  But this gender imbalance is global, and I was inspired to read that the UK is taking steps to introduce computer science into the classroom to students, age 5-16.  This is exactly what needs to happen in the USA - computer science must become a core subject in early education.  Great article:...

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