This year I was lucky enough to attend my fourth Girl Develop It Leadership Summit from October 6-9, 2016 in Austin, TX. With IBM Cloud Data Services as a sponsor, it was exciting to be there this year as a representative of IBM. The 60 women in attendance represented 53 chapters from cities across the United States.
Who Is Girl Develop It?
Girl Develop It (GDI) is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and judgment-free opportunities for women interested in learning web and software development. Through in-person classes and community support, Girl Develop It helps women of diverse backgrounds achieve their technology goals and build confidence in their careers and their every day lives. Founded in 2010, Girl Develop It has grown to over 74,600 members nationally and there are 183 women who lead/organize the local chapters in their cities. I became involved with Girl Develop It as a student in Philadelphia in 2011, and then founded my own chapter when I moved to Burlington, Vermont in 2012.
The goal of the Leadership Summit is to provide chapter leaders with opportunities to connect, and to receive training and support in order to empower them to continue as ambassadors of GDI’s mission. The Summit features workshops on inclusive outreach, building a leadership team, and curriculum building. This is a unique opportunity for chapter leaders to connect and learn from each other, especially since throughout the year we work as a distributed team powered by volunteers.
One of my favorite sessions at the summit was a training on overcoming unconscious bias by Tyi L. McCray of Paradigm. Unconscious bias is, “The brain’s tendency to take mental shortcuts, relying on past experiences and cultural stereotypes to quickly and subconsciously process information.” Tyi taught us tips for how to combat our tendencies for unconscious bias, and collaborate with people who come from diverse backgrounds. A key takeaway for me was that the question isn’t “whether” we’re biased, but how our biases affect our work and what we can do about it. In addition to impeding diversity efforts, bias limits objective decision making. Tyi showed us that awareness is not enough. The next step is developing individual, team, and organizational strategies for managing bias. This training helps me to better envision my role as a developer advocate in fostering an inclusive tech community.
Why Support Girl Develop It?
Girl Develop It chapter leaders volunteer in their free time to serve the mission of Girl Develop It. In addition to their volunteer service for GDI, they work full time as tech leads, architects, technologists, CEOs, community builders, and prominent leaders in their cities. GDI chapter leaders work in all facets of tech, many of which are already customers or partners with IBM. By fostering the vital services that GDI chapters provide to their local communities, we make a direct investment in a more diverse tech community. If you are interested in teaching or volunteering for your local Girl Develop It chapter, or starting one of your own, check out our website: https://www.girldevelopit.com/chapters