I have a smart phone.
I have a laptop.
I have an email address.
That list pretty much caps the amount of 'tech' in my life. Feeling confident after finally learning how to program the time on my VCR, the world suddenly became awash with technology, and I have done my best to keep up ever since.
I am a personal and professional development coach. There's not much technology involved in what I do - in fact, many coaches I know still use a landline for their coaching calls, and I still take notes with a pen and paper. Even the concept of talking to a client on the telephone sometimes eludes people. No one uses their phone as a phone anymore, and yet it is the number one required tool in my work.
However, because I work almost exclusively with women who identify as LBTorQ, when I was asked to participate in a coaching workshop at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco last weekend, I gleefully agreed, and showed up not knowing exactly what to expect.
Here is what I found:
Lots of Great Hair = Creativity
I must begin with the first thing that I noticed - the myriad of beautiful, colorful, and occasionally gravity-defying hairstyles of women in this community. I found myself in awe of the creativity in action in front of bathroom mirrors each morning!
There's a lot of discourse regarding how you look vs. how you work these days, and the neatly-attired Ann Taylor suit look has all but disappeared from this industry in favor of free, casual swag. I want to stand on a rooftop and shout a huge THANK YOU to the women at this Summit for renewing my faith in the iconic style of a next generation. You make Fashion Week look like a used coloring book.
Most importantly, if the message is independence, powerful decision-making, and non-conformity, you're doing a fantastic job.
Lots of Hugs = Compassion
I spent 15 years in the spa industry. Since most of us were originally massage therapists, we were VERY affectionate people by nature. Yet there was always a professional undertone when we met up at The Big Annual Conference. Lots of handshakes, lots of business card-passing, and lots of quick hugs goodbye at the very end.
That was absolutely not the experience at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit.
I was greeted with hugs - big, enveloping, long, compassionate hugs that were clearly only half meant as a hello and half meant as a way to connect, delivering compassion and love. Women do this naturally, it is our gift, and we gave it out in droves for three days straight (well, not exactly straight). We were easily embracing each other with a message of "You are my people. We will stick together."
Lots of Projects = Innovation
I became so fascinated by the non-standard answers to "What do you do?" Each reply came with a three-fold answer: a day job, a night/weekend job, and a personal project (or two). I heard about maternity clothing for masculine, transgender and queer people. I heard about projects that connect tech mentors with tech students. I heard about projects that create safe spaces for diversity and inclusion. I heard about projects that connect technology with self-empowerment and spiritual awareness.
Each person knew exactly what they were meant to be doing, and they were fiercely passionate about their personal project. When I introduced myself to Megan Smith, US Chief Technology Officer (and LWTSummit Keynote Speaker) at a T-dance on Saturday afternoon, she immediately asked "What are you working on?"
Lots of Diversity = Interconnectedness
The connections I witnessed and were part of had absolutely nothing to do with what we looked like. In the halls and bathrooms and sidewalks and workshops - despite race, gender, style, age, faith - we fastened together and easily walked paths without boundaries.
I must be honest and admit that when I first walked into the lobby of the theater, I immediately felt out of place. Not only am I "non-tech," but I am a femme, cis, white lesbian. And here I was, surrounded by a level of diversity that I hadn't yet experienced in this community (and this is probably because I don't live in Oakland). I immediately fell in love, and was embraced by everyone.
In the wake of the tragedy that befell Ferguson, after diversity studies showed that women are sorely under-represented in the tech world, and while nearly a dozen trans people have been murdered in the first two months of this year alone, we are all hurting for change.
What I experienced in three days was an overwhelming sense of inspiration, connection, magnetism, and joy. The shift that the Lesbians Who Tech Summit caused will ripple out to all corners of the world for a very long time.
To watch the entire first day's event, click here.