Let’s face it. Anyone who says it’s not hard to be a woman in tech is probably a man.
While women make up about half the U.S. population, they hold less than 30% of all professional computing positions in the nation.
Those numbers get worse when you look at non-white women in tech, with African-American women only making up 3% of the computing workforce, Asian women comprising 5%, and Hispanic women coming in at the lowest percentage, holding 2% of computing jobs.
The bottom line is, tech could do better when it comes to creating opportunities for and offering opportunities to women, especially women from marginalized communities.
So to do my part as a female member of one of those marginalized communities—hello out there to all my fellow queer tech enthusiasts!—I want to highlight some women who are taking it upon themselves to change the tech community as we know it.
To be clear, there are a lot of amazing women in tech, and it would be impossible to feature all of them in this one article.
For this list, I focused on women who are helping to create a more inclusive tech space, especially one that’s more inclusive of women. Because it turns out, women are pretty good at getting stuff done.
Below is my list of 12 rockstar women in tech who are trying to make the tech community a better place, listed in alphabetical order. I’ve also included their Twitter handles so you can keep up with whatever they decide to work on next.
This girl gets it.
1. Kimberly Bryant
What she does: Founder of Black Girls CODE
Why you should follow her: Bryant wants to give young girls of color more opportunities to get involved and stay involved in STEM fields by introducing them to coding. Her organization, Black Girls CODE, hopes to train 1 million girls to code by 2040, giving them a stepping stone to fill any of the 1.4 million computer science jobs expected to be available by 2020. Ultimately, Bryant hopes that by assisting and inspiring young women of color to take part in STEM endeavors, they can take part in shifting the “historic and systemic inequities that are based on race and gender,” especially in the tech realm.
2. Tracy Chou
Why you should follow her: Chou is a software engineer who’s worked for Quora and Pinterest. But the accomplishment I want to highlight here is Chou’s Medium post read ’round the world which called for tech companies to disclose the number of women on staff in engineering roles.
3. Laura Gómez
Why you should follow her: Gómez’s recruiting platform, Atipica, wants to push back on companies that blame their lack of diversity on “the pipeline.” Using AI and extensive data analysis of industry stats, as well as a company’s internal hiring numbers, Atipica gives organizations hard data that helps them see where and how they can improve their diversity and inclusion efforts. Gómez hopes to topple unfair and biased hiring practices and close the racial gap in Silicon Valley.
4. Samantha John
What she does: Software engineer, co-founder of Hopscotch
Why you should follow her: John is a co-founder of Hopscotch, an app that teaches kids how to code. John came up with the idea for Hopscotch after noticing how few programming opportunities exist for girls. The app itself is specifically designed to be gender-neutral, and its drag-and-drop interface makes it easy for kids to program fun, interactive software.
5. Allyson Kapin
Why you should follow her: Kapin’s nonprofit Women Who Tech brings together women who are actively committed to using technology to “transform the world and inspire change.” She wants to increase the number of women in STEM fields and help to give women more access to startup funding. Kapin’s web agency, Rad Campaign, which she co-founded with Jared Seltzer, creates online campaigns that help socially responsible businesses convey their message.
6. Jocelyn Leavitt
What she does: CEO and co-founder of Hopscotch
Why you should follow her: Leavitt founded Hopscotch with #4 on our list, Samantha John. As a former educator, Leavitt is an advocate of hands-on, project-based learning, which played into Hopscotch’s accessible, drag-and-drop interface for code building.
7. Roya Mahboob
What she does: Co-founder and CEO of Digital Citizen Fund
Why you should follow her: Mahboob was Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO. She moved to the U.S. after receiving death threats from the Taliban. Her nonprofit, the Digital Citizen Fund, gives women in developing countries access to technology. In fact, you might have heard of their mission when the Afghan girls’ robotics team the DCF sponsored was denied U.S. visas—twice—to compete in an international contest. Despite opposition on many fronts, through its 11 IT Centers DCF has enrolled over 9,000 Afghan women in classes focused on digital skills. Mahboob’s and Digital Citizen Fund’s goals are to help women in developing countries attain economic livelihoods through digital skills.
8. Ellen Pao
Why you should follow her: You’ve likely heard of Pao in connection to her lawsuit, Pao v. Kleiner Perkins, in which Pao sued her former employer for gender discrimination. Though Pao lost the suit on all counts, she’s since become a founding member, along with several other women listed in this post, and CEO of Project Include. Project Include is a community dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
9. Leanne Pittsford
What she does: Founder of Lesbians Who Tech
Why you should follow her: Pittsford founded Lesbians Who Tech in 2012 in San Francisco as a community where lesbians and queer women could network and discover opportunities in the tech world. The community has since expanded to 20,000 members and 35 chapters all over the globe. Their fourth annual Lesbians Who Tech + Allies Summit is coming up in early September and expects over 2,000 attendees. The organization is dedicated to increasing opportunities for and the visibility of queer women in tech spaces.
10. Angelica Ross
What she does: CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises
Why you should follow her: Ross’s TransTech Social Enterprises is a community dedicated to fostering LGBTQ talent, specifically the talent of transgender people in tech. They provide technical training to LGBTQ people and allies, offering access to free technology courses, mentors, and support networks. Through community building and advocacy, Ross’s organization looks to make an impact in a world where transgender people have an unemployment rate three times that of the general population.
11. Reshma Saujani
What she does: Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Why you should follow her: Saujani’s wants to build “the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States” through Girls Who Code. And, full disclosure, “That Works” – SLG liked that idea so much we decided to donate to them in December 2016. Like many of the women mentioned in this article, Saujani noticed the widening gender gap in computing and wants to help girls succeed in filling the 1.4 million tech jobs that will be on the market by 2020.
12. Rachel Sibande
What she does: Founder of mHub Malawi
Why you should follow her: Sibande founded Malawi’s first tech hub, mHub Malawi, in 2013 to bring together entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts who want to confront their country’s challenges. They want to connect 5,000 technologists through the hub by 2019, creating more and more opportunities for young Malawians through mentoring, community support, and groups like the “Children’s Coding Club” that teach skills to aspiring programmers.
Let’s hear it for the ladies
As I mentioned previously, this is by no means an extensive list. I’m sure there are a million other powerful ladies out there who qualify as tech rockstars. If you have some shoutouts of your own, please leave them in the comments below!
In the meantime, keep fighting the good fight, all you ladies and allies! You can use this confident woman’s words as inspiration: