A Millennial Advocates for More Women in Tech
“Being in tech is about building the future of the world we live in,” says Hayley Leibson, the fresh-faced millennial behind Lady in Tech, an award-winning blog and community for next-generation female tech leaders. “I created Lady in Tech because I simply thought, ‘this should exist.’ I want to inspire and move millennial women to enter the tech industry and build tech for good.”
Google the phrase ”women and tech” and a mix of headlines pop up – equal parts dispiriting stats – women make up 57 percent of the US workforce, but only 26 percent of the tech workforce -- and hopeful features on powerhouse “fixers” – such as supermodel Karlie Kloss’ Kode with Klossy and Melinda Gates’s drive to get more women in tech.
Headlines and hashtags are shining a needed light on glaring industry defects –- too few women, the wage-gap, a toxic bro culture and #metoo. Hayley is adding her voice to the mix, reaching an audience of 25,000 across her social channels, and creating content and community for the young cohort of women who work in tech today – and the young women of its future.
For those numbers are even more unsettling. The number of women getting degrees in computer and information sciences is shrinking – down from 37 percent in 1985 to 19 percent in 2016.
“We aren’t going to solve this problem by being disillusioned and leaving the industry,” says Hayley, who completed a Stanford University certificate in Technology, Innovation and International Management, after graduating with honors from UC Boulder’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Technology innovation is a strategic imperative, and we must work toward creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for whom they build it.
In May 2017, Hayley launched Lady in Tech as a blog on Medium while consulting for a social media app company and tech investment firm. The blog shares insight on topics ranging from AI to the best tech podcasts, along with profiles of women technologists in the beginning or mid-stages of their careers, offering Generation Hashtag a career roadmap, from women working it out in tech.
As Hayley’s audience grew, so did her platforms. She is now a Forbes contributor and frequent keynote and media expert. Hayley’s community-building work also extends beyond her own Lady in Tech platform. She actively supports communities for TEDxSanFrancisco, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and Women in Product, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in product management.
In this #WatchHerWork profile, Hayley shares why tech needs millennials and why we should all care about diversity in tech even if we can’t tell a megabyte from a megahertz:
You call yourself an “empathetic technologist and inclusion advocate.” Tell us what that means.
“I believe that well-run, values-centered technology companies contribute more to society and the planet in more tangible ways than any other organization in society.
People in tech are looking at problems in their own lives and solving them. But for the populations not well-represented in tech, there aren’t as many people thinking about how to solve their problems. The opportunity to build tech companies to solve these problems… it’s a massive opportunity for the communities that are underrepresented.
How did you get started with Lady in Tech?
“I wanted to change the narrative and be a positive voice in this space to encourage women to enter the tech industry….Meaningful, positive change is happening. Tech leaders are being persuaded by either a sense of social or moral justice, by the research that diversity is profitable, or by the desire to build better products.
I got started by creating a Medium blog. I publish interviews with women, write about various conferences and events I attend. And by providing readers with actionable advice and key takeaways, and by sharing inspirational content and my journey on social media.”
You are 24. And much of Lady in Tech and your speaking gigs are geared to millennials. Does your message about diversity and inclusion go beyond this particular cohort?
“I want to elevate the conversation about diversity in tech not just in the industry but for a national awareness…Everyone who uses the products that the tech sector outputs should want to see a more inclusive workforce in Silicon Valley.
It is critical that we increase diversity in tech because of the role the industry plays in shaping the future of humanity.”
Humanity is struggling. The tech industry – like so many – has been beset by negative headlines about harassment and work culture. What will move the needle?
I recently participated in a special edition of ABC7’s Beyond the Headlines with Cheryl Jennings and Kristen Sze to discuss solutions to the challenges women in tech face across the Bay Area. We created an online resource hub with local & national resources regarding this topic – you can find it at Allies Take Action.
This is the time for more mentorship, more sponsorship, and more men stepping up and working toward equality for everyone. When more women and minorities are hired and promoted to leadership, organizations produce better business results and sexual harassment is less prevalent.
We connected through one of my favorite platforms – LinkedIn. How do you get the word out about your business?
“I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to market my business. I’ve grown my business organically through word-of-mouth at events in the San Francisco Bay Area, and through writing, and speaking. I have not paid for any advertising. I do use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to market my business by sharing content. And my best platform is Medium.
I also use LinkedIn for keeping in touch with professional contacts, sharing content, and announcements. I’ve received multiple speaking opportunities through LinkedIn; including an upcoming invitation to speak about inclusion in tech this summer at X-Summit in Shanghai, China.”
How cool! What else are you working on?
“I have a few exciting projects with Lady in Tech in the works. On May 1st, I’m launching an email newsletter including invites to exclusive events, news, perks and offers, and much more so that women can stay up-to-date on everything occurring in the San Francisco Bay Area for female founders and technologists.
I love taking classes and constantly learning new things. I am currently taking Google’s Machine Learning course and loving it. I don’t watch television. I read a lot, attend a lot of talks and panels, and consume a lot of content online for professional development.”
You have so much on your plate. I am amazed at your bandwidth. How do you stay motivated and fuel confidence?
“By actively maintaining a positive mindset! I do this by spending five minutes a day using Simple Habit (a meditation app for busy people). I’ve written about the benefits of using meditation apps. People are now likely to learn meditation today through apps than any other means. Practicing meditation can greatly benefit your brain function and focus in everyday life. I find that when I do, I am much more productive and produce better work. I try to block time in my schedule for this and stick to it, but it is a constant struggle.
Also, create and surround yourself with a supportive, positive community both digitally and offline. It can be easy to become heads down studying, working, or building a business and not focus on building your network. During low moments, you need people to turn to for advice, people you can rely on.”
You live and breathe tech. Before I let you go, any tech tools I should know about?
My can’t-function-without-products… Google Calendar for tracking my life, Google Drive for storing my life. Evernote for note-taking. Simple Habit for meditation. Slack for work. Product Hunt for discovering the best new products. Croissant for finding workspaces. Scribd for audiobooks. Nike+ for running. And Apple’s Health application for tracking sleep!