Unless you’ve literally been in a tech bubble lately, you’re well aware of rampant news reports about sexist workplace cultures in the technology industry. Unfortunately, research shows that experiences like Susan Fowler’s at Uber are just the tip of the iceberg: The new Tech Leavers study reports that “1 in 10 women in tech reported experiencing unwanted sexual attention at work.”
What’s more, according to the National Center for Women and Informational Technology, women only held 26 percent of professional tech jobs in 2016, despite their making up 57 percent of the overall professional workforce during that same year.
Alright, so let's make some lemonade. We’ve been keeping an eye out for women in tech who are disrupting such examples of industry backwardness, and in the process empowering other women to step up. The result? Our inaugural 7 Influencers to Watch list.
To earn a spot on our list, these women not only had to be at the top of their field in the tech industry; they also needed to be actively working to increase access for other women.
Without further ado, let's meet some rockstars who are out there leveling the playing field every day,
1. HEATHER PAYNE
Canadian coder and angel investor Heather Payne founded the non-profit organization Ladies Learning Code in 2011 as a way to increase access to tech skills through coding workshops for women and girls. The program has grown to include 24 cities across Canada, and maintains a strong social media presence in the digital community of women in tech.
Payne followed up this "ladies only" project by founding HackerYou in 2012. Listed as one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2013, she now serves as CEO for the Toronto-based company, which offers coed courses in programming and coding. And, unlike some other tech companies where coed is just another term for "guys club," HackerYou has "created over 300 professional developers since 2014, and about 60 percent of them are women."
2. MEGAN SMITH
Megan Smith was appointed by President Obama to lead the Office of the Chief Technology Officer in 2014, putting her on the fast track toward being one of the most influential women in tech (and the nation). She was the first woman to ever hold the title of United States CTO, and used her platform to not only champion innovative solutions to current challenges, but also to empower other women and girls to pursue public service through working in the tech industry.
Smith delivered the final keynote at the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, an event organized by the Anita Borg Institute, which "recruit[s], retain[s], and develop[s] women leaders in high-tech fields." In her address, she called out examples of women and girls engaging in innovative problem solving across the world, for issues ranging from criminal justice to the use of drones to plant trees for reforestation.
3. TERESA CARLSON
Teresa Carlson was named one of FedScoop's Top Women in Tech for 2017 for her work as Vice President of the Worldwide Public Sector of Amazon Web Services. Carlson not only wields tech power on a global scale, she also prioritizes speaking about representation in tech fields, and has played a leadership role in Amazon's We Power Tech project.
We Power Tech is about creating "a pipeline of women and underrepresented communities skilled in tech, and build[ing] the networks of people who are already in the industry,” Carlson says. “There are thousands of open jobs available, and we want them to be filled with a diverse and inclusive workforce."
4. KIMBERLY BRYANT
Founder and executive director of Black Girls Code, Kimberly Bryant was recently named one of Inc.com's 2017 "30 Inspirational Women to Watch in Tech." The publication hails Bryant as "one of the most influential women in technology education" thanks to her tireless nonprofit for girls of color aged 6 to 17, which was founded in 2011 in San Francisco, but now operates in several cities across the U.S. and South Africa.
Bryant, who has enjoyed a multi-decade tech career in a range of industries, has been honored by the White House, the Smithsonian Institute, and both EBONY and Marie Claire magazines, just to name a few, and uses her considerable influence to highlight the need for greater diversity in tech.
5. SUZAN DELBENE
Representative Suzan DelBene of Washington state also earned a spot on FedScoop's 2017 list of Top Women in Tech, thanks to her career in the tech field prior to joining public service (including a stint at Microsoft and her role as CEO of Nimble Technology).
DelBene remains committed to improving public policy from a technical lens in her role as a congresswoman. She helped introduce the Computer Science for All Act, which aims to increase K-12 computer science education funding. The Congresswoman also is working on updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to better "protect civil liberties in the digital age."
6. ANJULA ACHARIA
Trinity Ventures' angel investor Anjula Acharia may be best known for her work to cross-pollinate American and Indian pop music through her multimedia platform, DesiHits, but she has also managed to recently earn a spot on ELLE Magazine's 2016 Women in Tech list.
Acharia, who has invested in a range of startup companies helmed by women, sees herself as a connector, and is committed to identifying and fostering talent in both venture capital and tech. "Whenever I meet talented women, I just want to help them achieve their goals,” she says. “It's my calling."
7. DEL HARVEY
Rounding out our list of powerful women in tech is none other than Del Harvey, the fierce gatekeeper in charge of Twitter's Trust and Safety department. Harvey, whose circuitous career path includes a stint posing as an underage teen to help catch online predators, now keeps Twitter safe from harassment and abuse.
Harvey has earned recognition from Forbes magazine and high-profile organizations like actor Ashton Kutcher's Thorn, which is devoted to protecting children from sexual exploitation online. At Twitter, she’s tasked with wading through some of the murkiest corners the digital world has to offer; her dedication has helped online spaces remain safe places for women influencers to connect.