March 8th was International Women’s Day and to celebrate Civic Hall, FWD.us, and VoteRunLead gathered an inspiring panel of women leaders and entrepreneurs for a conversation on Tech, The Presidency and Women Voters. Erin Vilardi of VoteRunLead moderated a panel with Yin Lin of SheWorx, Crystal Patterson of Facebook, and author and immigration activist, Julissa Arce. The conversation focused on the big issues facing women this election, new ways to reach voters, and the role tech is playing in the presidential campaigns.
The global theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is the #PledgeforParity. For Lin, an entrepreneur who founded SheWorx, a collective of tech leaders building a stronger startup ecosystem for female entrepreneurs, she emphasized the need to increase the number of female venture capitalists in addition to increasing women entrepreneurs in order to truly reach parity.
All the panelists reflected on the issue of immigration – not just in broad political terms but in the concrete challenge of hiring high-skilled tech employees. Arce, a noted immigration activist, stressed the importance of supporting the president’s executive action on immigration reform, which would help more than 10 million families currently living in fear of deportation. Lin, whose father was once undocumented, and Arce who herself was once undocumented – both shared powerful stories of the contributions of immigrants. Arce pushed everyone in attendance to use their rights as US citizens by voting in every election, something she looks forward to doing for the first time this year.
Patterson, in her role at Facebook has been front and center at almost every presidential debate this cycle, shared how the candidates have been using Facebook and social media to engage with communities. On that topic, Lin talked about how many non-English-speaking communities have taken to platforms like Slack and WeChat to discuss policies that matter most to them and urged candidates to explore these less mainstream platforms. Vilardi emphasized the importance of social networks – asking everyone to become a human hyperlink of political information – since surveys show that 45% of people trust traditional news sources, while 95% of people trust their social platform communities.
Questions coming from attendees centered on how to bridge generational gaps, what issues can women come together on as women, and how to better represent the diversity of women’s lives and experiences. The dynamic panel ended with a call to action to improve parity among women of all demographics, encouraging one another to vote, to run for office, and to elevate the work of women across sectors. Throughout the day, Civic Hall’s programming continued with a workshop on the ways men can participate in championing women’s rights and leadership, how to change unconscious bias with language, and a round table looking at ways to tackle parity on a global scale.