What It Means to Be a Woman in Tech

Emily Rasowsky
September 24, 2017 | 10:19 am by Karolle Rabarison

Interview produced by Ann Li.

Emily Rasowsky is a DC-based digital strategist with a penchant for using entrepreneurship and social media to form creative solutions on issues where she sees pressing gaps. She has an undergraduate degree from George Washington University, where she started an organization on sexual violence awareness that leveraged online tools to create groundbreaking educational campaigns. She is currently a Managing Strategist at Social Driver.

Emily’s Women in Tech campaign is on a mission to highlight the diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and stories of women working in technology. So far, it has become an amazing collection of stories from 80 women, hailing from 8 countries and a wide variety of backgrounds. In this conversation, she shares the impact of this campaign so far.

Why did you start Women In Tech?

Last year, the women at my company, Social Driver, were featured in an article that showcased us as women in tech. We are a full service digital agency, and at the time, none of the women featured were engineers or developers. The article started a lot of discussion about what it means to be a woman in tech, and many people questioned how we could be “in tech” if we were not coders.

I decided that being a woman in tech is not about having a particular background or job title, but about leveraging technology to make your business or community better. I started the campaign in order to make “women in tech” more inclusive of different backgrounds and skillsets. While the campaign was initially meant to be a one-month, DC-based initiative, the response was so positive that we’ve created a company called All Women in Tech to represent the scores of women we’ve heard from, who finally felt included in this movement.

Now, we are focused on carrying out our mission through three core pillars: elevating people, building community, and catalyzing action.

What have you learned from this campaign? Do you have advice for others looking to enter this world or spearhead their own initiatives?

I’ve always lived by the belief that if something doesn’t already exist, you have the power to make it happen. Many people have this idea that you need an invitation to start something. We spend time in our heads thinking, “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” Don’t let fear stand in your way. In most cases, no one else is stopping you, and the only thing you need is a strong sense that you are doing this for the right reasons.

A big lesson I’ve learned is that people are surprisingly nice. We often tell ourselves that we can’t reach out to someone for help, but in most situations, if you just show up and ask: doors will open for you. My dad’s favorite advice is short, but brilliant: “Why not?” What’s the worst thing that is going to happen? If someone says no, on to the next!

What is the media’s role in shaping our notions of gender and sexuality?

Media is at the center of how messages get spread, and when you have the right message going out through the right media outlets, it is incredibly powerful. If you look at the way campaigns like #Looklikeanengineer have taken off, you can see how virality makes media critical in how we message to wide audiences. Media helps us spread information, connect with other people, and challenge our ways of thought. If we use media to challenge discrimination and the use of stereotypes, it will trickle down to the tech world and our everyday lives. We have a responsibility as communicators who can instantly send a message across the world to challenge ourselves to be more inclusive and thoughtful about our impact.

What are you working on now? Do you have any requests for collaboration?

Right now, I am very focused on building community and growing the Women In Tech campaign with more stories, so that people can continue to see the tech community’s diversity and strength. For anyone who wants to get involved, I encourage you to share your stories and participate in the large digital events we hold (like the online Tech is More chat this September). I would strongly urge folks to visit our website and just click around – you are likely to land on a story that resonates with you and your own experiences.   Then, join the conversation and tell me: What aren’t we thinking of? What else should we be doing? (You can find Emily on Twitter @WITCampaign or email her at WITCampaign@gmail.com).