Despite the challenges that remain for improving diversity in the tech sector and at scientific institutions, there is still progress being made to create organizations that reflect the diversity of society at large. The fifth annual Lesbians Who Tech Summit, recently held in San Francisco, is a clear example. The Foundry’s Rita Garcia, Scientific Engineering Associate and Chair of the Foundry’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, attended this year’s event and came away inspired.
Lesbians Who Tech aims to celebrate the women in our midst who are changing the tech world every day. Women and minority technologists overcome challenges by staying strong together, and forging stronger connections to the community. In 2015, the Summit hosted 1,200 attendees, and has since grown to over 5,000 queer women, non-binary, people of color, and their allies, becoming the largest professional LGBTQ+ event in the world.
Attendees flocked to San Francisco’s Castro district from throughout the bay area, across the country, and included international participants, some coming from as far as Australia and England. With a program featuring celebrities like Samantha Bee, tech luminaries like Sheryl Sandberg, and an appearance by Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, the Summit enabled participants to make connections, to share their ideas and experiences, and to learn from one another.
Rita Garcia, attending for the first time, was blown away by the experience. “What really struck me was, for the first time, not feeling like an ‘other’, she said. “It was a very powerful and refreshing experience to fit in with such a large group of attendees.”
Garcia was also impressed by the number of large companies who were present at the event. “Big companies and big celebrities are attending the event and reaching out to the LGBTQ+ community because they recognize there is a huge pool of talent.” Over 100 tech companies sponsored the summit and participated in “tech crawls”, networking events, demos, meet-ups, and career fairs.
When asked if she would attend again, Garcia whole-heartedly agreed. “I got to meet incredible, inspiring people with a lot to offer, and I think it was a great opportunity to network outside my field and outside Berkeley Lab,” she said. “I’d also encourage other Lab scientists to attend minority-focused conferences because they’re a great venue for making connections and talking about Berkeley Lab outside one’s usual scientific conference circuit.”