Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders, or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game? In this series, we speak with some of the top women in tech in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.
Today we speak with Sara Nason, founder and CEO of ResistX, the nonprofit that sends text and email notifications about protests, rallies, and activist training around NYC. Currently a senior at NYU, studying Political Engagement and Attachment Theory, Sara has been able to create ResistX while staying active in college working in communications, running a radio show, and working as an editor of a journal. Active in the NYU and NYC Startup community, Sara looks to improve political engagement and how we create change for both women and men.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
In addition to being the Founder & CEO of ResistX, I’m also a rising Senior at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study pursuing a concentration in Political Engagement and Attachment Theory. In terms of background, I’ve probably dipped my toes in every pool. Having such a diverse array of experiences has allowed me to be a creative problem solver and ultimately found an organization that helps individuals reconnect with their democratic processes. I was a Field Organizer for a state senate campaign, which is a foundational concept to how I approach running my organization. Because I spent so much time talking to voters and constituents, I learned how to have conversations geared towards problem-solving. I was excited by what I learned and utilized the information to create a new system that operates outside of any one environment. Because I had access to fellow college students, while being at protests myself, I was able to hear commentary from those I was surrounded by and I realized there was a need and a wish for that need to be fulfilled. As such, we’re the only push notification service working within engagement technology specifically gearing towards protests, rallies, and activist trainings.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
One advantage that initially seems like a disadvantage is that people often take for granted my ideas or presence in a room. It’s once I am able to help lead a discussion or planning session that people understand the value of the work I do. Being underestimated is never fun, but it allows you the ability to surprise those in the room, and ultimately gain a bigger leg up. I also get to meet other women in tech whose ideas are changing the world. Being inspired and pushed by these other female entrepreneurs allows me to create better content; to look for a bigger, bluer sky; and to truly learn from those I’m around.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
There are a lot of groups that already exist for female entrepreneurs and women in tech, but often, the bar is set high for entry. By having small gatherings, deep discussions, and open forums in apartments, libraries, and even on the sidewalk, commonalities and opportunities can be found in ways that don’t already exist. A lot of progress is being made and will continue occurring if women promote other women.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity, to me, is a concept that is intersectional. It is individuals coming from vastly different places, social, economic, geographic, political, gender, race etc. systems, and allowing for a far greater frame of mind of how to approach a problem and solution. The more diversity and intersectionality we have in tech, the more problems that can be solved.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
Even just within small organizations, it’s clear that there is a lack of women in senior organizations. Well-established companies, which were founded by men have a very difficult time changing the status quo of their company. With that being said, diversity is crucial to having a greater reference for the world and its problems. By including women who have stayed with an organization in the senior roles, it’s not only a gesture of respect for the time and dedication for the employee, but also a visual that the organization is ready to view their challenges with a greater frame of mind and truly tackle them.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
Teams will be able to tackle larger problems, they will be flexible and have a deeper understanding of the strengths of each of their team members. Teams will take the time to understand the precedent for the challenges they’re facing and will ensure that everyone gets a seat at the table, because their voices matter.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Women rise in the ecosystem both because of their hard work, but also because of women looking out for other women. With more and more educational opportunities, fellowships, and scholarships, there is a higher chance that women will rise. However, there is a general concept in organizations that have existed for over fifty years, as well as those who have a significant operating budget, that the best people to put at the top are the ones with the most experience and name-brand education. And since women have been left out of the conversation for a good portion of those fifty-plus years, it’s even more difficult for them to rise. Women tend to ask for less than they need, to worry about other’s reactions, instead of owning what they know. There needs to be more education at the senior-level of organizations with predominant male populations that women have a place to make a change.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
Civic Hall does a great job of noticing organizations that have really interesting missions and ensuring women have a prominent role in the discussion. Additionally, #GirlsWhoCode is an organization that promotes STEM education for girls to compete on higher levels with those who may have had more resources or gender bias.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men can recognize their place at the table and how their decisions affect the women in their organization. But they can also help to promote the work that women do and ensure that there’s another microphone at the table for the women who deserve it.
The team at AlleyWatch believes it’s important to have an inclusive discussion around the challenges facing women in tech along with highlighting the work of the female entrepreneurs that have made NYC one of the best places for women in tech according to some recent studies. That’s why we are running this series that showcases women in tech in New York.
If you are a female founder in NYC working in tech and interested in participating in the series please visit this link or click on the image above.
Please feel free to pass this on to any women in NYC that you feel should be considered for the series. Thank you.