There has been lots of media coverage about sexism in the tech industry lately, and while it’s important to highlight and discuss these issues, it’s also important to acknowledge some of the good news stories too.
The struggle for recognition and reward women face, in the tech sector especially, is being played out in a very public and acrimonious Silicon Valley culture war.
We’ve seen the toxic culture of sexism exposed at Uber, leading to the depature of its co-founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick. Major figures in the Silicon Valley startup culture Dave McClure and Chris Sacca have faced allegations of making inappropriate sexual advances towards female startup founders. And only last week, Google fired one its employees for publishing an essay that was critical of the company’s progressive policies in regard to gender and diversity.
These incidents are no doubt just the tip of the iceberg and we’ll probably see more as Silicon Valley and the broader tech sector attempts to build a more inclusive and equitable culture.
However, it’s worth highlighting the people doing great things too, if only to remind us that so much is possible for women now. Things have actually got better. I know, it’s happening too slowly. But it is happening.
In an inspirational essay written two years ago titled “Tech Women Choose Possibility”, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder and chief executive of video shopping enterprise Joyus, says it can be easy to focus entirely on the negative, which ends up obscuring the positive stories about women in tech businesses.
“Looking at the press, one might think women entrepreneurs are not only hard to find, but struggling to succeed. If we want to progress the path of potential women founders, it is equally important to bring this perspective to the table,” she said.
There are thousands of women out there proving they can built great tech companies too. We don’t always hear about these businesses, but if you take a little time to go looking (as I did) you soon discover all kinds of vibrant and inspiring stories about women building companies that have the potential to be world-beaters.
Here are five businesses led by women all at different stages in their journey, from community-based startups through to billion-dollar enterprises. While they come from a variety of industries, the transformative power of tech is definitely at the heart of each of these businesses….
…Adafruit — founded by Limor Fried
Adafruit makes DIY electronics kits that combine electrical engineering with an eye for the arty. Founded in 2005 by Limor Fried, Adafruit aims to make learning about electronics fun and creative for people of all ages. In 2011, Fried was the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Wired magazine and she was Entrepreneur Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012. She is regarded as one of the leading lights of the “maker movement”, which encourages people to make their own tech-inspired projects and is an advocate of open source hardware community.
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.