PASS Summit 2014: WIT Luncheon

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Since I’m starting on the board in January, I’ve stopped taking part in the bloggers table during keynotes. First time since they had a bloggers. But, I am going to blog through the Women in Technology (WIT) Luncheon because I just love getting to take part in this amazing event.

For the luncheon this year, they have changed the format. Instead of a panel, they’re just talking to some really interesting people who have been doing amazing stuff supporting growth of women within STEM types of work and education.

First up is Kimberly Bryant, the founder of a non-profit organization called Black Girls Code. She started out trying to build a for-profit startup, but when she found that there just weren’t that many women in technology. But when her daughter started to pursue computers, through gaming, she got her into a programming camp. That changed both her daughter’s life and her own.

More than 1/2 of all girls in Middle School are interested in STEM. But it’s only 3% in High School. That drop-off alone could explain where all the women in technology have gone in recent years.

Black Girls Code secret sauce is putting all the girls together and letting the girls teach each other and with adult women mentors. They focus on having women-only instructors in order to model the behavior that they want the girls to emulate.

They use just about any language they can get developers in to teach. They’re also partnering with Lynn Langit’s “Teach Kids Programming” organization (Lynn is one of the more amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and her program to teach kids Javascript is amazing).

Black Girls Code is an international organization, not just local or US only.

If you’re interested in getting involved in supporting your local community, according to Kimberly Bryant, there just aren’t enough teachers in technology in local schools. Schools need to have classes made available by people who know how to do it teaching during the school day. She suggests that doing this, in addition to an after-school program like Black Girls Code, is necessary to make a more profound difference.

She was asked if she advised students about how taking part in STEM, because it’s currently so under-represented by women, is going to difficult for them. They do take part in making sure that it’s part of the stuff that they’re teaching.

Kimberly Bryant is asked how to keep more women involved in technology past the mid-point of their careers.

She says that what needs to happen is that women have to stay within a company for long terms. But they have to have more mentors and advocates of women to grow them, over time, in order to break into the C level jobs.

Q&A with Kimberly Bryant:

How can more women be brought into the graduate degrees?
She says the same thing again, more organizations and support mechanisms for women on that track.

How can I assist my 15 year old girl to be interested in technology and software?
You need to get them interested before high school. It’s extremely difficult to get them interested at that level. But the younger girls, it’s down to getting the right role models in front of them.

How do we deal with the fact that many people don’t have laptops?
Work with libraries. Also find businesses that have high technology turnover to get them to donate older machines.

How do you change the culture to keep women around longer?
Hire more women. In order to change them from the ground-up, have more women in place.

What happens when it’s a woman vs. a man in an interview?
There is unconscious bias in interview processes, so you need to find ways to eliminate that as part of your hiring processes.


Go to career fairs (not a question).

How do convince children that they need to know about technology, not simply have a degree?
Black Girls Code also works with parents to get them involved in what’s going on with tech in order to enlist them in helping the kids. Other than that, it’s about teaching that technology has to be a part of all classes in schools. Convincing people that everybody is involved in computers.

How do you get a young girl involved?
Find programs that both teach the skill sets, but also have other girls involved.

What are some recruiting strategies for getting more women and minorities?
Have more women doing the recruiting. Women are not going to work for your organization if they don’t see other women working there.

Comment: Women have a hard time climbing the ladder. They should build doors and then open them.
Response: And then reach back through that door and pull other women through it.

Comment: Boys should also be taught that it’s OK to like smart girls.

Missed the question:
Every women’s experience is her own. Some young woman should look around her at her peers. Somehow women are not adequately represented.

What can the person who is not a woman or not a person of color can do to avoid unconscious prejudice?
Asking the question means you’re thinking it through. Mentor someone who doesn’t look like you. Making your company be accountable to what they do in this regard.

Microsoft employee with PHD stands up to thank everyone for their support for women. Her question is what does success look like in five years?
See some definitive actions from companies to make a difference. Have government involved more. Getting women in college or middle management to get them moving into C-level stuff.


It was a very interesting discussion. Thanks to the organizers within PASS for putting on something so vital and interesting. Thanks to Kimberly Bryant for her time, thoughts and efforts.


OK, fine, but what do you think?