Lesbians Who Tech

August 3, 2016 in inQueery

The people of the Bay Area are stereotypically and widely known for being one of these two things: queer or in tech. We have a rich history as one of the most LGBTQIA+ positive places on earth, and, in recent years, have become a major hub of technology. But… shouldn’t it be queer and/or in tech? Where does the queer community (and other marginalized communities) fit into an industry typically filled with white, straight, able-bodied, and cis men?

Groups like Lesbians Who Tech (LWT) work to change both the stereotypes and the demographics of the industry. Started by Leanne Pittsford, founder of design agency Start Somewhere, the LWT community has drawn over 11,000 members worldwide since its start in 2012. She started the organization because she felt that “most of the time [she’d] be the only woman in the room, the only queer woman in the room… [she] felt like there was something missing.” This lack of visibility is one of the core issues LWT aims to address, and through the recognitions of other queer women and the connections made at their events, they succeed. The organization also creates a platform for discussions of technological advancements and of the issues the community faces. One of the most impactful effects the organization has had on its members has to be the networking opportunities and exposure for small, queer start-ups. Robyn Exton, founder of a lesbian dating app called Her, has said that the organization has “literally changed [her] life” because after attending an event, her “user-base doubled in the space of two days and doubled again in two weeks.” Thanks to LWT, queer women in tech can now easily receive support and achieve success in ways that they couldn’t before.

How did LWT achieve all of this in such a short time? Leanne Pittsford claims that the group’s success is foremost due to leadership. She says that in order to have a successful organization, business, or movement, “you have to think about what you want to represent, and then you need to build the leadership team to reflect that.” For LWT and other LGBTQIA+ groups specifically, “you better have trans people, you better have bisexual people, you better have people of color, and you better have women involved.”It is key to be intentional about the representation within leadership teams so that every single speech, event, and summit reaches and connects with all possible members. LWT could have easily become a movement for white, cis lesbians, but because of the diversity within leadership, there is diversity within membership. Because of the far-reaching mission and message of the group, membership has exploded and the group just keeps on growing.

As of right now, the organization is working on a new goal: giving funds and sending queer women without other opportunities to coding bootcamp. The scholarship they aim to offer is named after Edie Windsor, an LGBTQIA+ activist and former technology manager at IBM. It is too late to donate, because as of May 19th, they have reached their goal of $100,000. However, if you are a queer woman interested in tech and want to look into the Edie Windsor scholarship, it is not too late to apply. As for joining the local San Francisco chapter, there is always room for new members.



Amelia Henry is a Guest Contributor at InQueery.