11 minutes

Women, Tech, and the Presidency: How We Move On From Here

For many of us, whether we stayed up until the early hours of the morning or woke up to news reports, Wednesday brought a solemn sense of shock. For many of us, as mothers and as tech innovators alike, it was hard to juxtapose our modern society with what had just taken place. The world watched in real time with us, questioning what our circumstances would now mean for them.

Published Nov 10, 2016 in motherhood, news, women in tech

For many of us, whether we stayed up until the early hours of the morning or woke up to news reports, Wednesday brought a solemn sense of shock. For many of us, as mothers and as tech innovators alike, it was hard to juxtapose our modern society with what had just taken place. The world watched in real time with us, questioning what our circumstances would now mean for them.

While telling everyone that everything will be okay because our country has been resilient through a painful history does little good, as many people will suffer if Trump is true to his campaign, the important thing to bear in mind is that it also does little good to panic.

For those that need, take the time you need to grieve. Allow yourself to work through your anger, sadness, and disgust at what this election has brought to light about our country. Keep a low profile on social media if you need to, and tend to your own physical and mental health needs. Focus your energies inward for the moment, and toward your families and communities, rather than insulting supporters of President-Elect Trump or wishing for his failure, as was done to President Obama. The fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote speaks volumes without hashtags like #NotMyPresident. We need President-Elect Trump to do well, for all our sakes.

Instead, once you are able, begin your action plan.

What We Tell Our Children

This is something I have struggled with since the election. As an American, I love my country fiercely. I believe in the spirit of individualism and of civic responsibility. I believe that as a nation composed almost entirely of immigrants, our diversity is our greatest asset. Meanwhile, as someone who wasn’t born here, the child of an immigrant and grandchild of more immigrants, my family history is broad enough that I can be aware of our country’s historical shames without taking them personally. I understand that the true merit of a patriot is not in blind devotion to their country, but in being willing to criticize it in order to continue to improve it.

For children, however, it can be hard to reconcile these seemingly conflicting thoughts. They are incredibly perceptive and pick up on far more than we give them credit, but they lack the experiences that help us put things in perspective and understand their complexity. Even before the election took place, children across the country have increasingly been prone to bullying and racial harassment, and others fear for their families’ safety. Our children have been watching as a presidential candidate has treated virtually every group with derision and disrespect, and it is affecting them.

Our children are going to see that sometimes hatred wins battles against love and acceptance; we are not going to be able to hide this from them. The important thing for us as parents to do is to stress that as long as good people do not give up, love and progress eventually trumps hate. Depending on the age of our children, we have a number of examples from history and spiritual traditions that we can share and discuss to help show that for the country at large, things will get better.

We have to be clear that no matter what someone’s background or beliefs are, bullying is not acceptable. While we want our children to be safe from harm, we need to stress to them that those who witness bigotry and discrimination have a duty to act or report it. We need to show through our actions that while we may not always agree with one another, everyone believes they are doing the best they can, and it is important that we can work together toward the betterment of us all.

For those of us with boys, it is past time for us to have conversations with them like we have had with girls for more than twenty years. We need to teach the same lessons on body autonomy and consent that we stress for girls. As our boys get older, we need to be clear that it should not be a girl’s daily responsibility to prevent her own assault, and that good men need to speak up and share the platform to create change. We need to ensure our boys understand they have an equal responsibility for household tasks, and that fatherhood - if they choose it - is one of the most important things they will ever do and deserves their time as much as a mother’s.

For those with girls, I am struck by the words of Secretary Clinton as she conceded the election:

To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. - Hillary Clinton

Listen to your children and talk with them often. Let them feel free to share their thoughts, concerns, and fears with you.

What We Do As Women and Mothers in Tech

If you are currently a woman in tech or learning to code, know that you are doing much for women simply by standing your ground in a field dominated by men. While harassment and assault are already incredibly prevalent in this industry, know that as people are emboldened by the election, this may initially get worse. As long as we can stand it, we need to try to remain in our field through its challenges. We need to speak up for ourselves and others and be clear that we will not tolerate second-class treatment.

The mothers amongst us are particularly important. Until recently, the female narrative has been dominated by childless career women and child-rearing homemakers. It is critical for us mothers to not hide that status in shame as we were previously encouraged to hide our names and marital statuses. We need to show working mothers as an economic force from all class backgrounds, and to push our employers to create policies that reflect the needs of working parents of all genders.

It is critical that we be attuned to our other tech minorities, and that when we make the call for diversity, it includes race as well as gender. We need to be on the lookout for innovations that do not serve all of our communities, especially as facial recognition and automation become increasingly utilized by law enforcement and other industries. We need to call out ageism when we witness it.

Additionally, we need to be watchful for legislative and executive news regarding technology and innovation. The election ushered in a platform of prioritizing dying and soon-to-be-automated industries over innovation and true job creation, and we cannot take for granted that America will be the technological powerhouse it was in the past. We have to do everything in our power to ensure that we do not get left behind as the world moves forward.

What We Do For Our Neighbors

While we have a responsibility to ourselves, we also have a responsibility to better our communities, regardless of our head of state. Ultimately, this responsibility will be twofold:

First, we must open our arms and hearts to those who are most harmed by the rhetoric of this election. Regardless of your race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we need to be there for our fellow Americans as they are harassed and discriminated against. We need to stick up for those who are being abused and make it clear that we will not be silent bystanders to bigotry.

We need to be watchful for disabled members of our communities and the issues that hit them particularly hard. Especially if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, disabled Americans may need help fundraising for lifesaving medications, supplies, and mobility equipment. Members of the community with mental and learning disabilities or mental illness may have a harder time adapting and coping, particularly if access to care and services is limited or less affordable. Be ready to ask people how you can best help them, and understand that disabilities do not suddenly end with the onset of adulthood.

The most important thing we need to do for our neighbors’ sake is to increase our civic engagement and be more active in civil service. How many of you were well-versed in the positions of down-ballot candidates and initiatives prior to the election? Ultimately, while the national leadership makes a great difference in our lives, the impact of state and local elections is far greater.

In many cases, there is so little interest in local politics that people run completely unopposed for school board, city council, state legislature, and even congressional seats. These are the individuals who make critical decisions about how our children are educated, whether our states take advantage of federal resources, and the vast majority of the legislative and executive decisions that affect us on a day-to-day basis. They even have the ability to redraw districts to dilute voting power of constituents that oppose them, a practice that - while technically illegal - has been increasingly widespread in recent decades under the guise of bipartisanship. With that in mind, it becomes easier to see why two of the only five times in our country’s history that the winner of the popular vote did not win the electoral college have both occurred within the past twenty years. For comparison, the other three times all occurred during the 1800s.

It is unacceptable for us to get so jaded by national politics that we ignore these critical state and local elections. If we really want to preserve the American value of diversity, we have to pay attention to our local communities. In many cases, it also means that we must get more directly involved with these elections and positions. If you look at your choices and see that no one is running against the only candidate, for the good of your community, you may need to read up on what needs to be done to run and either run yourself or motivate a friend or family member to do so. If political candidates continue to face no challenges and no serious questions on policy, our communities will continue to be poorly served.

In addition to challenging our local officials, we also need to demand more of our journalists. While both sides of the political spectrum are not fond of the media, journalists have a crucial role in the success of democracy. In order for them to play their part, we must demand that they offer up serious questions and prioritize substance over sensationalism. When we hear political candidates given “easy” questions, we must push back and insist that they be evaluated critically. If our journalists fail to do so, we need to take to social media in large numbers to do it ourselves and ensure someone is holding them accountable.

In two years, we will have another opportunity to directly impact our national representation. When the time comes, learn about who is running and what they stand for. Hold them accountable to your communities and ask them the hard questions. Vote, and bring people with you to the polls so they can vote as well. Ask your friends and family members throughout the day if they have voted in the midterm elections yet. Prior to the election, help those in your broader community register and get ID if your state requires it. No side has a super-majority, so the impact of the upcoming midterm elections cannot be overstated.

Ultimately, while our path forward may oscillate more than we would like, in the long run, America will continue to improve itself and get better at standing up for the ideals we hold dear. In the meantime, we need to be there for those who may not be okay over the next four years. And while the majority of Americans may disagree with President-Elect Trump - according to the popular vote - we cannot treat him the way his followers treated President Obama. Treat his supporters with respect, compassion, and empathy. Hope for President-Elect Trump’s success, as a president’s success is its nation’s success. Hold both accountable, but do not deliberately and needlessly disrespect and sabotage them.

Believe it or not, I still believe in the good that’s in people, so I still have hope that things will not be as terrifying as they sound. - Sara Soueidan

Questions, comments or concerns? Continue the conversation in the comments!

9 minutes

Get Involved! Forming a Local Coding Group for Growth and Community

When learning to code, you're often your own worst enemy. Speedy learning slows to a crawl and you start to wonder if you were cut out to code at all or if you were really an imposter all along. One good way to avoid this self-defeating spiral is to surround yourself with fellow coders as often as you can manage.

Published Nov 7, 2016 in series