November 02, 2017
For the last two years, I’ve served on the Minnestar Board of Directors. If you’re not familiar with Minnestar, we are a non-profit that represents and connects the Minnesota tech community: everyone from the future developer about to start a bootcamp, to the junior high girls robotics team, to those leading Minnesota’s latest acquired startup, to those designing and building products, to those investing in them.
We have represented the majority for way too long
But as with all tech communities, we have represented the majority for way too long, making it harder to attract and retain those from underrepresented groups. As a woman in tech, I do not see myself in this community. Still. After being here for over 15 years. But I’m starting to. Just a little bit more every day. I’m starting to because I have been actively trying to change that for the last handful of years. For myself and for other underrepresented groups. It’s why I started leading the Twin Cities Geekettes, why I co-founded Hack the Gap, why I’m one of the founding members of WE*, and why I am on the Board of Minnestar. It’s also one of the reasons I choose to run my own small business, 612 Software Foundry. To lead by example and advocate for change in any way I can.
One of Minnestar’s core events is Minnedemo, a geek show and tell, where each presenter gets seven minutes to demo live, on stage, in front of 700+ people, working tech. This last event was different. Not only did I see myself up there on stage (and not just as the emcee), but I know that many others could too. Many of our past demo events have been predominantly white and male. This event was different because:
88% of the demos were led by women and/or people of color
We worked hard to actively make that change. We did not sit back and wait for more women, people of color, or those from underrepresented groups to come to us. We. Went. To. Them. We actively spent time focusing on our presenter line up. We contacted groups to participate either as attendees or to apply to present. We have spent time networking with and consulting with other event organizers, communities, and organizations that are on the periphery of ours or have a bit of overlap. It took some relationship building. It’s not a change that happened overnight and we’re definitely not done. Not. Even. Close.
I think it’s important for us to publicly celebrate successes like this, not only to hold ourselves accountable, but to show others that when you take action you can make changes like this in your own company, organization, community, or event.
Share your actions to inspire others
Claps are always appreciated but please consider sharing this and commenting below on how you’re actively trying to change your company, organization, community, or event. The dialogue will help spur on even more ideas and growth. If you’re just starting to look for ideas, there’s a handful of them two paragraphs above or in the comments below. Try one or two and report back on how it goes!
Interested in presenting your MN made tech at the next Minnedemo? Apply here!