Episode 9: Creating a Community to Support Women in Tech

Hello listeners, and welcome back to Tech Forward! This week I spoke with Hayley Leibson, founder of the award-winning technology and lifestyle blog, Lady in Tech. Through Lady in Tech, Hayley is dedicated to inspiring women to become technologists and entrepreneurs, and to create a life that they love. As an empathetic technologist and inclusion advocate, Hayley also contributes to Forbes; her column moves millennial women to enter the tech industry and build important products at scale to improve the world.

Upon taking her first undergraduate engineering courses, Hayley noticed how few women were in her class — and that none of them planned to pursue a career in technology. “The best way to make a positive impact on the world is through building technology. [...] A lot of what people are doing in tech is looking at the problems in their own lives, and solving them. For populations not well-represented in tech, nobody is looking at how to solve their problems.”

With code and algorithms influencing more and more aspects of our lives every day, it’s important to remember that machine learning models reinforce the biases and beliefs of the people who write them. The underrepresentation of women and minorities in the tech sector is alarming because of the role the industry plays in shaping the future of humanity.

All of these factors played a role in Hayley starting Lady in Tech. From its first iteration as a Medium blog, Lady in Tech grew rapidly, gaining over 25 thousand followers in a year. Hayley attributes this success, in part, to her community of Bay Area women who were excited about the industry but discouraged by the “boy’s club” narrative. They wanted to serve as a positive beacon for other women, to show them that meaningful change is happening. Lady in Tech focuses on up-and-comers and mid-career professionals. By showcasing the early stages of women’s careers, Hayley hopes readers will feel as though their own career aspirations are attainable.  

Hayley’s main advice for women looking to enter the tech sector? “Surround yourself with a positive community, both digitally and offline.” In this spirit of community building, Hayley attended the first Female Founders Office Hours. The organization, whose mission is to increase the number of successful women-led companies, gives women the space to foster connections and have one-on-one time with female VC partners. Looking to the future, Hayley hopes to start her own tech company in a few years.

If you’d like to hear more from Hayley, reach out to her on Twitter. Thank you so much to Hayley for coming onto the show this week, and thank you to all of you out there listening. See you next week!