De-colonizing Technology

The Kapor Center for Social Impact recently released the findings of a study entitled The 2017 Tech Leavers Study that was the first of its kind to examine the reasons employees voluntarily leave their jobs in the tech industry.  What they found was voluntary job exits were driven by workplace culture, significantly affecting the retention of underrepresented groups - women, Black and Latinos. 

In the wake of this groundbreaking study, meet two fierce and badass Bay Area professionals who are ensuring inclusion in the future tech landscape.  From App Dev to AI, these entrepreneurs are working to disrupt the "tech bro" bias and participate in the de-colonization of technology. 

 Photo credit: Lance Yamamoto, East Bay Express

Photo credit: Lance Yamamoto, East Bay Express

Dr.  Kortney Ryan Zeigler is a writer, filmmaker, artist and activist and founder of Trans*H4CK, an organization dedicated to creating technology that "economically empowers, improves access to social services, promotes gender safety and community sustainability, while bringing visibility to trans* tech innovators and entrepreneurs."  Zeigler was the first African America to complet a  PhD in African American studies at Nothwestern University. Dr. Zeigler looks at technology as a way of leveling the playing field a space to allow the dissipation of inequities and eschews the so-called "difficulties" in hiring more black people in tech. Trans*H4CK launched its first hackathon in 2013, hosted at the New Parkway in Oakland. Since then, Trans*H4CK has hosted three other in-person hackathons, which have resulted in over 30 projects created geared toward the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

 

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Laura Montoya, Founder and CEO of Accel.AI, an Oakland based startup that seeks to remove barriers that prohibit Latina engineers from entering the world of Artificial Intelligence says that the  need is to not just "hire more people of color... but really making them feel included, that their experience and work is warranted and valuable".  (creativemornings.com)

A goal of Accel.AI is work worldwide with women and displaced populations to create a network of AI Engineers around the world focusing on the populations who have the greatest barriers to access. Ironically, these are the populations who are that greatest risk of disruption by the AI technology as computers and robots replace people in jobs.

 In the Bay Area, she is a director with Women Who Code and runs a book club,Tech Lore, that focuses on preparing participants for the current tech environment through literature.  Aceel.AI tech workshops - offered at deep discounts to women and LGBTQ participants - not only teach specific skills but cover how to start a company, gain access to technology as well as empowerment skills, such as getting rid of your"imposter syndrome".  She goes into schools in low access areas and partners with several groups, like Oakland's Dub Mission and Techtonika,  to depart the attitude and skills necessary to enter and excel in the tech field.

 

Read about Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code, a nominee for 2017 SF Chronicle Visionary of the Year