Rise Up is partnering with women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people who are transforming the technology landscape through innovation and advocacy. With our support, Rise Up Leaders are changing technology — both as a career path and a social justice tool — to make it more equitable, inclusive, and accessible. We explored these topics in-depth at our virtual event earlier this month, Transforming Tech, co-hosted with Black Girls CODE (BGC), an organization dedicated to improving the pipeline of Black girls in Tech.
Bringing more women and girls into the technology field is critical to global economies, according to the UN, however, women and girls remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The purpose of this month’s event was to raise awareness about technology and the economic opportunities it presents as one of the most powerful ways we can strengthen global gender equity.
“I see tech as an equalizer,” Meru Vashisht, a Rise Up Leader in India, human-centered design professional, and a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate, said at the event.
In conversation with Rise Up Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Denise R. Dunning, Meru also called tech, “one of the greatest feminist forces of all time.” In India, Meru explained, young women rely on technology to get answers to questions they can’t ask others due to societal norms and stigma, access essential services without leaving their home, and report crimes without being intimidated or threatened.
Meru uses human-centered design to address unmet needs and reduce barriers for underserved communities — which is exactly what she did with the grant funding she received from Rise Up. Her project, called Unspoken Stories, uses technology to provide a safe space for young women to anonymously share about their sexual experiences.
We also had the opportunity to hear from Jackie Garcia, Black Girls CODE Vice President of Development, and Yasmin Senior, a BGC alumna. Yasmin first got involved with BGC as a teenager and reflected on how learning coding skills influenced her career trajectory. She is in college and currently interning at a major technology company committed to diversifying its workforce.
“One thing that a lot of women go through in the tech industry is imposter syndrome,” Yasmin said. “It is hard to feel like you belong or to feel validated — it is good to have these spaces for women to share and learn more ways for career paths as well.”
For Yasmin, fellow young women, and people in underrepresented groups, technology provides so many possibilities. Jackie at BGC spoke specifically about how technology can offer women the chance to achieve financial independence and a secure economic future for their families and future generations.
Rise Up Leader Lesego Masethe in South Africa, who also spoke at the event earlier this month, is focused on supporting those future generations in her country. Lesego established her NGO, Brain Waves Development, to create platforms and opportunities for young girls to find their place in STEM and beyond. Brain Waves aims to build STEM literacy and understanding in previously disadvantaged communities. Since its inception in 2015, the organization has supported almost 4,000 students through its program.
“I want young girls to thrive,” Lesego told event attendees. “I want young women to one day sit side-by-side at a table with other world leaders and help solve problems that are facing the world today.”
Lesego said that her Rise Up experience broadened her perspective on social issues and deepened her understanding of effective advocacy strategies. She added that the Rise Up program also provided her with a network of like-minded leaders, fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
“Female leaders, like myself, within these spaces are catalysts for change,” Lesego said. “We challenge gender biases and promote inclusivity.”
To hear more from each of our inspiring speakers, you can watch the 1-hour Transforming Tech event here.