TLDR; Check out Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech on the QueerClouders podcast. To listen to the whole podcast please visit: https://soundcloud.com/queerclouders/03-queerclouders-w-music-episode-03
A few weeks ago our own Leanne Pittsford, Founder of Lesbians Who Tech joined Soundcloud’s weekly podcast entitled QueerClouders. In lieu of asking interview questions the hosts have crowdsourced questions from listeners and wrote them on individual pieces of paper, Pittsford then draws questions for herself.
The first question asks “Which people in the tech world do you find the most inspiring?” Pittsford answers with Dom DeGuzman, a programer working at twilio and Megan Smith, former Google [x] VP and current Chief Technology Officer for the United States government. Pittsford explains by saying that both of them are real leaders in both women and queer communities as well as the tech industry. The conversation naturally segways into what it means to be a mentor, and have mentorship. Pittsford notes that she believes that mentorship must have something that extends beyond professional bounds, there must be a connection there. The next question is “What has been the best moment of your professional career?” and Pittsford answers without a second thought and says “without a doubt the San Francisco Summit.” She continues on to share that the summit brought together over 800 hundred lesbians and the people who love them in a way that she had never seen before. In all of the gay events Pittsford has attended, she notes that she has never seen so many women in a room together focusing on technology. The summit is unique because it allows women to honor both their professional and personal identity as a lesbian; and bringing both those things together allows them to step into their full greatness.
The conversation continues by recapping the speakers that were at the 2014 San Francisco summit, Pittsford shares that she tried to get a wide range of speakers from the creative side with Erica Anderson to Kronda Adair on the programming side, to big names like Kara Swisher and Megan Smith. She also explains the difficulties in trying to narrow down speakers simply because there are so many sectors of technology, she tried to make sure that there was something that everyone could relate and engage with. The hosts of the show continue on with the theme of being something for everyone and ask about how Pittsford and Lesbians Who Tech create a safe space for everyone to have their experience. Pittsford shares that she was initially concerned about how the the word lesbian would be perceived and whether people who identified as bisexual or genderqueer or something outside of the confines of the definition of lesbian would feel. She says that she was pleasantly surprised that people who identified along the spectrum of sexuality and gender engaged with one another. She notes that Lesbians Who Tech is going to continue to explore how to make it a more engaging and safe space for people. One way they’ve focused on being more inclusive is to add queer women in tech as the tagline. They also called their NY Summit the Queer Women Who Tech Summit.
Circling back around to this years Summit, held in San Francisco from February 27 – March 1, Pittsford highlights some of the speakers who will be sharing. She says that she is particularly excited for Angelica Ross, a trans person of color who started an organization called trans tech. “One of the challenges for the trans community is that there are issues when they actually show up, they are discriminated against,” Pittsford notes. In Ross’ organization she is training trans people in technology but, then she continues to connect them to jobs. The jobs that Ross connects them to are all done remotely and so trans people can avoid the often awkward encounters that happen when they show up to the office, thus making them feel safer. Another set of speakers Pittsford is excited about is Danielle and Aisha Moodie- Mills, one of the first same-sex couples married in DC that run a podcast called Politini where they look at the intersections of technology, politics, hollywood, gender, and sexuality.
The hosts ask about what Pittsford learned the most working for Equality California; Pittsford says that it is hard to pick one but, what stands out the most for her is learning about the wage gap. Women in Silicon Valley make $0.49 for every man’s dollar and when you put two women together that wage gap is huge. The statistics are bleak and she things that we as queer community need to take that issue on and work to change it. However, she notes that the best thing that women can do when starting a job is negotiate for a higher salary, the salary you get at your first job sets you on a trajectory for the rest of your career, it is imperative that women step up and not be afraid to ask for more. The conversation naturally transitions into talking about the role the media has in the tech world, Pittsford shares that we as a country can’t see people going into roles that have been traditionally held by men because we don’t have images of that in the media. She says that one of the reasons we haven’t had a female president is because there are very few images of women in a position of power, “images are so powerful.”
Pittsford continues on to talk about the Lesbians Who Tech international events; Lesbians Who Tech has hosted events in four international cities. She says that she is constantly surprised by how often the experience queer women in tech feel in the United States is so similar to that of the experience of queer women in tech in other countries. They are all talking about similar issues relating to equality and the wage gap. Pittsford stresses that one of the main goals of Lesbians Who Tech is to encourage more people to be out, not only within their friend group but, in the online community. While she understands the safety concerns people coming from other countries have, she really continues to urge them to come out because it inspires other people to come out.
The podcast closes by asking Pittsford about what advice she has for people who are just entering the tech world, or are starting to find their role within both communities. One of the things that has been constantly on Pittsford’s mind is something she talked about at last years summit, risk taking. She says that she often hear women say “I have to go back to school or I have to take this class or do this thing before I can begin,” when actually Pittsford thinks that they just have to start, and start somewhere, anywhere. Just begin. She says that she often thinks about if we were to all just start somewhere, where could we be in a year from the time we started? We often second guess ourselves because things seem scary, a new job, a new city, a new relationship, really we need to just jump in with both feet and begin. Finally, the last piece of advice Pittsford gives is showing up, show up for yourself, show up for others. Just show up. She says that she noticed that their west coast events were less diverse than the east coast events and so Pittsford went out to other communities and recruited, she showed up for them and took a risk in stepping into their space. And in that, the Lesbians Who Tech community continues to be transformed. But, it was all about taking the risk and showing up for others. Just show up #showup!
To listen to the whole podcast please visit: https://soundcloud.com/queerclouders/03-queerclouders-w-music-episode-03