How To Encourage More Brown Women To Launch Tech Startups

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By Adria Richards (Technology Consultant, But You're A Girl) Why are women, especially Brown women, not planning, developing and showcasing tech startup ideas?

The reason more Brown women aren't launching tech startups is because they're not seeing role models, peers and friends do it. They're not talking about it, not going to conferences and not reading up on how to get started. I can directly attribute my attendence tonight to the San Francisco Startup Weekend to my initial sit down conversation with a Brown woman engineer by the name of Erica (@swirlspice) in the spring of 2009 and this same story has repeated itself time and time again.

I'm very excited that I was able to move the needle in the direction I wanted without being a whiny commenter on TechCrunch. Instead I made a difference by inviting a friend who is a Brown woman like me to attend Startup Weekend. I also wanted to make a special effort based on my amazing experiences over the last few months regarding the Brown startup world where I:

  • Cheered on Jes Carter who is building Toour, an app allowing you to "create, discove and share tours of your favorite places".
  • Was amazed to see Gokit launch at SXSW in less than 24 hours.
  • Attended a positive and uplifting brunch organized by Kimberly Dillion, founder of House of Mikko.
  • Smiled with happiness to see Angela Benton announce the NewMe Accelerator incubator for Brown startups.

Women need to be asked and encouraged. Allie Micka, co-founder of Advantage Labs, a Drupal shop, shared how she hadn't even really considered going to conferences until a friend asked if she was going:

I was the first woman at any DrupalCON, the only woman in Antwerp. Until the brouhaha over the keynote, I never really thought about why I went there in the first place. But the decision to travel there was triggered by a tiny and important event, so I'd like to share it.

I had been communicating back and forth with Matt Westgate about some e-commerce functionality. At the end of one of his emails, he tacked on the following: "PS -- You headed to Belgium?

This question wasn't a part of an outreach initiative to involve women in open source. I doubt he questioned that my interest might be affected by my gender. It was simply, "We're having an interesting conversation that would be even easier to have in person". Before I read that email, the thought of traveling to DrupalCON hadn't crossed my mind. But my response to that simple question was to make it happen! And thus my life was changed.

and she became the first woman to attend DrupalCon. Boom!

Allie's note on the Drupal forum also struck a chord because I ended up attending DrupalCon for the very same reason; my friend Dave Hall, Drupal developer and programmer extroidinare who lives in Australia asked me if I was going. I decided to align my move to San Francisco with attending DrupalCon and got to meet Dave for the very first time in person last May. Funny to see the same patterns repeat themselves.

This is when I realized that simply asking, "Are you going?" is enough to make a difference in someone's awareness.

Women are notorious for using technology but not stepping up as SME's or joining the community around it. I do feel Drupal offers more in the way of community in this aspect as does the Ruby community due to women like Sarah Allen.

I attended one of the events Sarah Allen organizes called, Ruby On Rails Outreach Workshop For Women and had a great time! It was a two day workshop to get us familiar with the fundamentals of programming in Ruby. There were volunteers, sponsors and I could tell everyone there knew they were there for a purpose greater than themselves and know what? It felt good!

Action Step: We need Brown Allie's and Sarah's in the Brown women tech world to organize, cultivate interest and most importantly show up and be visible.


I've had some offputting experienes at events as well but was prepared for them because one of my tech heroes, Valerie Aurora, wrote an excellent free handbook on How To Encourage Women In Linux. Just take a look at some of the chapters:

2. Why are there so few women in Linux?

2.1. Women are less confident
2.2. Women have fewer opportunities for friendship or mentoring
2.3. Women are discouraged from an early age
2.4. Computing perceived as non-social
2.5. Lack of female role models

3. Do's and don'ts of encouraging women in Linux

3.5. Don't take the keyboard away
3.6. Do give directions and explain them clearly
3.7. Don't make sexual advances towards women
3.8. Do act friendly
3.9. Don't complain about the lack of women in computing
3.10. Do encourage women in computing
3.11. Don't stare and point when women arrive
3.12. Do treat new arrivals politely
3.14. Do treat women as normal people
3.16. Do compliment
3.17. Don't invite only male speakers
3.18. Do ask women to speak
3.19. Don't micro-specialize
3.20. Do discuss broader topics
3.21. Don't make your meetings hard to attend
3.22. Do make meetings easy to attend
3.23. Don't make new people feel unwelcome

...and there's more! So, yes, I'm hella happy to be attending Startup Weekend, I'm glad I reached out to other women to attend to do my part to grow the ever increasing number of Brown women in the startup world and I look forward to seeing your future success!

I've found that in order to be successful, you must step out of your comfort zone.

What's been holding you back from launching a tech startup?

This post was originally published at But You're A Girl.

About the guest blogger: Adria Richards helps business professionals learn essential web technologies through hands-on training at <ahref="http://freshworkshops.com/">Freshworkshops. With over 12 years of experience in website development, training and computer networks, Adria removes the frustration of learning the web. Now living in San Francisco, Adria continues to focus on raising awareness for open source, cloud apps and digital equality. Read her blog at www.butyoureagirl.com and follow her on Twitter at @adriarichards.