Image courtesy of the Women of Silicon Valley

Meet the Women of Silicon Valley

April 13, 2017

Written by: Natalie Lim

Although it exists as an incredibly popular TV show, the term “Silicon Valley” also refers to a real place. The San Francisco Bay area in Northern California is where technology companies such as Facebook, and Google have their headquarters, and where thousands of start-ups have set up shop, hoping to find success. In recent years, the term has expanded to include “Silicon Valleys” all over the world, from the Silicon Valley of Indonesia to Ontario’s Silicon Valley North. While the TV series is a somewhat satirical take on what it’s like to work in one of the technology capitals of the world, it gets a couple of things spot-on, and one of these things is, unfortunately, its casting. There are very few women and minorities featured on Silicon Valley, just as women and minorities in general continue to be underrepresented, both in the California tech scene and in the world tech scene.

Enter the Medium publication Women of Silicon Valley, a project that endeavors to shine a spotlight on women in Silicon Valleys all over the world. This series of interviews is important because it puts faces to names, showing these women as real people rather than a series of statistics on a chart. It gives them a voice, one that is used to inspire younger generations, break stereotypes, and talk openly about the challenges of working in the tech sector. Here are just a few examples of women who are shaping the future of technology through their work:

Lea Coligado
If Lea hadn’t come up with the idea for Women of Silicon Valley, she definitely would have been featured in it. After years of working (and experiencing sexism) in a male-dominated tech industry, Lea decided to build something that would encourage and inspire other female tech workers, while showing the world some of the amazing things that women in tech are accomplishing. Inspired by the popular blog Humans of New York, Lea posted her first interview in early 2015, and has since gained over 30,000 followers. Besides running Women of Silicon Valley, Lea is a senior computer science major at Stanford, former intern at Apple and Facebook, and will be working as a software engineer for Google starting this fall. You can read more about Lea in her very first Letter from the Editor here.

Sophie Xie
If you've ever used a sticker on Facebook Messenger, then you’ve had an encounter with Sophie’s work. She spearheaded that project, has been on design teams for WillCall and Lookout, and is currently working as an independent designer in San Francisco. During the interview, she discusses the difficulties she’s had in gaining trust at her various workplaces due to her gender, the ways in which feminism has positively impacted her daily life, and how she “quit looking up to people who don’t look up to women.” You can read the rest of Sophie’s interview here.

Adriana Gascoigne
Adriana has a long, successful history within the tech sector, having previously worked with, Indiegogo,, and over twenty other start-ups and companies. However, one of her greatest contributions to women in STEM occurred in 2007, when she founded Girls in Tech. This non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting empowerment, engagement, and education for women in the technology industry, and since its inception in San Francisco, has grown to include chapters from Australia to the Middle East. Girls in Tech runs conferences, hackathons, and mentorship programs for 25,000 members all over the world, and it is Gascoigne's proudest accomplishment to date. During her interview, she also talks about unconscious bias in the workplace and gives a list of recommendations for women who want to succeed in the tech industry. You can read the full interview here.

Dorcas Adhiambo
Dorcas may not live in San Francisco, but she hasn’t let that stop her from using her interest in technology to change the lives of the people around her. She made her entrance into Kenya’s tech industry in 2013 when she co-founded the start-up Sokonect, an award-winning organization that uses mobile technology to connect local farmers and buyers of horticultural products. Since then, she has also helped to found a tech hub in Kisumu and is currently serving as a board member and managing director of Girls in Tech Kenya. Check out her interview to read more about the moment that she knew she wanted to work in the tech sector, and how she handles organizing major workshops and programs with highly limited resources. 

Sara Mauskopf
When Sara was included in Business Insider’s 2014 “30 Most Important Women Under 30 in Tech” list, she already had an impressive resume under her belt, and it's only gotten more impressive since then. Sara has worked for YouTube and Google as a Partner Technology Manager, and for Twitter as a Group Product Manager. Most recently, she co-founded and now serves as the CEO of Winnie, a mobile app that helps parents find parks, libraries, and family-friendly restaurants near them. The best advice that she can give to girls who want to work in the tech sector? “Be relentless. Don’t take rejection personally. You can be the best, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” You can read more about Sara’s computer science origin story and her experiences with workplace discrimination in the interview here.  

Want to learn more about what it's like to be a woman in tech? Check out the first episode of our podcast, Best of the WWEST, where we talk to Cole Brown, a front-end developer working in Vancouver! You can also read more interviews with women from every corner of the tech industry on the official Women of Silicon Valley website.