The organization plans to support its goal with inclusive initiatives, programs and competitions.
Fighting for a seat at the table in the world of tech is hard enough for women, but keeping that spot often proves to be just as difficult. Women make up just 25 percent of the tech workforce and the statistics are even more disproportionate for women of color (1 percent for Latina/Hispanic women, 3 percent for Black/African American women and 5 percent for Asian women), according to a study by NCWIT. Another sobering statistic cited is that 56 percent of women will leave the tech sector by the time they are mid-career professionals.
Big tech companies such as Facebook, Lyft, and Google release annual diversity reports to show how they are combatting diversity disparities that are rife in the industry. Organizations such as AnitaB.org are taking active steps to ensure that women technologists have space in an industry that has traditionally shut them out. AnitaB.org is diligently working on its moonshot — a mission to bring 50/50 intersectional gender equity by 2025 to the tech sector. The organization empowers women to make significant contributions to technical fields through specially designed programming and initiatives that work to close the gender and other diversity gaps that exist in the tech industry and envisions a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for whom they build it.
Last week, AnitaB.org hosted the largest global gathering of women technologists at Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) in Orlando, Florida, which brought together over 26,000 students, early- and mid-career, and senior executives, from leaders in industry, academia, and research. The annual event empowers attendees to build relationships, find new ideas and inspiration, learn new skills, and advance their careers. The Celebration featured keynote speeches from leading technical women, panel discussions, career development sessions, Abie Awards presentations, poster sessions, a hackathon, and the industry’s largest technical career fair for women that provided direct access to recruiting opportunities with the companies who exhibited.
There were also several opportunities for participants to engage with the Systers communities at the 2019 Celebration. The Systers online community hosted by AnitaB.org welcomes more than 8,500 members from 70 countries and hosts 29 affinity groups that span the globe across nationalities, religions, and ethnicities to support and provide resources to increase the number of women from all backgrounds in computing and engineering-related jobs around the world. Sessions included a reception Celebrating Latinas in Technical Roles and a Black Women in Technical Roles Reception, sessions on Centering Indigenous Women in Tech and Women in Tech at the United Nations, and Luncheons Celebrating Women of Color in Technical Roles, LGBTQ-A in Technical Roles, and the Systers Community, to provide a sampling.
For women founders and entrepreneurs in the tech space, the AnitaB.org PitcHER™ program awarded $100,000 between three finalists and an audience favorite during a competition that took place at GHC. The competition was designed to encourage women who are in the early stages of their startup to apply based on certain rules, including having a minimum viable product and fundraising not exceeding $2 million, as well as being based in the United States. Finalists were judged on a range of criteria, one of which is the projected impact of the startup — meaning the positive impressions that their proposed business will have on women or children. The 2019 First Place winner was Dr. Sanna Gaspard, Rubitection Inc.; Second Place was Kristen Fang, SrattyX; Third Place — Shanel Fields, MD Ally; and the Audience Favorite was Lin Zhu, Loro, Co.
The Top Companies for Women Technologists 2019 winners were also announced at the opening of GHC 2019. The Top Companies for Women Technologists is a national program from AnitaB.org that recognizes companies that are creating more opportunities for women technologists. AnitaB.org analyzed data on representation, programs, and policies from 76 companies representing more than 143,000 women tech workers in the 2019 benchmarking just released. Analyzing and reporting on this data ensures that the mission of AnitaB.org is being supported externally by companies that are committed to building a more inclusive technological workforce. Categorized by the size of their technical workforce, AnitaB.org announced the 2019 winners as Bank of America for greater than 10,000 employees, The New York Times Company between 1,000 and 10,000 employees, and Ultimate Software at less than 1,000 employees.
Another example of the range of AnitaB.org programs that happen throughout the year is the Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) Initiative. BRAID partners with 15 universities to increase the number of women majoring in computer science. Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and IBM are 2019 sponsors of the BRAID Initiative. BRAID is a diversity program with the aim of supporting university partners to lead the way in making technology a more inclusive field at the collegiate level. Universities commit to creating more engaging curricula for computer science classes, building a pipeline of local high school students interested in tech, as well as developing and driving students to double major in a tech-related field and an outside major such as biology.
AnitaB.org has continued to expand its efforts to partner with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. This year, Amazon donated $25,000 to support 10 women from MSIs, shortly following IBM’s donation of $150,000 to support women technologists attending GHC in 2019. IBM funded 60 students from MSIs to attend this year’s event. “Donations from Amazon and IBM opened the opportunity for underrepresented women of color to access an event like GHC which can be a critical lever for success and provided them with the necessary support in attending,” said Brenda Darden Wilkerson, president and CEO of AnitaB.org. “What I loved most about this call to action, driven by companies, is the challenge to take industry-wide action on coordinated opportunities to scale support for women of color which is additive to our support of all women.”
As AnitaB.org pushes closer to its 50/50 by 2025 goal, the organization encourages more companies to join in its efforts to reshape the landscape of the tech industry to better serve women and society as a whole. “Investment from companies like Amazon and IBM are so important in reaching the AnitaB.org goal of 50/50 intersectional gender equity for women in tech by 2025,” said Wilkerson. “This comes down to opportunity and access.”
This piece is brought to you in partnership with AnitaB.Org.