Sponsorship spotlight: Ashe Dryden and Diversity in Tech

Throughout the year, Bendyworks contributes to a number of community-based events including meet-ups, conferences, and even a summer concert series that takes place just outside our office on King Street. This year we’re also sponsoring individuals to support important work being done in the tech community.

One of the first individuals we’ve sponsored is Ashe Dryden, whose amazing work on a variety of initiatives helps increase diversity in the tech community. She’s consulted with companies like Heroku to improve their culture with an eye toward diversity and inclusion. She’s also given talks around the world, and is writing a book, The Diverse Team: Healthy Companies, Progressive Practices.

We met with her on March 3rd to learn more about her work and what she sees on the horizon:

What are you working on? Oh, so many things; I’m all over the place. I do a lot of work with conferences to increase diversity, helping them get more people to submit to Calls for Proposals so that conferences have a more diverse speaker line-up. I also help them put together scholarship programs so that more people can attend who wouldn’t otherwise have access.

I consult with businesses to improve their culture; how they recruit, interview, and hire; and their onboarding process. I help them to create a safe and fair place to work in the industry.

On top of that I read and write a lot of critical theory on tech culture and its intersection with social justice and feminism. I mentor and help connect people who are new to the industry.

One of the least visible things I do is offer assistance to people who email asking for advice: people who are trying to get their first job, people who are the only woman or person of color in their workplace and struggling with their coworkers, or people who experience sexual assault at tech events. People see me as a safe person to talk to when they don’t know where else to go, which is a huge responsibility, but I’m thankful that I can do it.

How did you start doing this work? Completely by accident! I’ve been a programmer for 13 years who has always cared about addressing the imbalance and homogeneity of the industry. There was an incident with a conference a few years ago that made me realize I needed to speak up more about these issues. Many people don’t realize that there is a problem, let alone what to do about it. I started speaking up more and more, and realized that it’s important and creates more positive, lasting change than programming can right now.

What work do you see yourself doing in the future? I’ve thought about a lot of different things, including starting a nonprofit that would allow people to seek help. There’s an issue where people are wrongfully terminated from their workplaces, are assaulted at conferences, or face online harassment, and they need help finding legal services, accessing therapy, finding safe jobs, or just connecting them with people who can empathize with their situation.

I’m also writing a couple books, trying to get more people to start engaging with this kind of work—to bring people together to figure out where our initiatives overlap and what we can do to better support each other.

Additionally, there are a number of people in San Francisco I’m working with to put together a diversity conference and some smaller events to provide education and training to the community and businesses. (UPDATE: Ashe has launched AlterConf, which we’re proud to be sponsoring. Check out when an AlterConf Session is coming near you!)

How do you financially support yourself doing this work? The bulk of my income comes through anonymous donations online through Gittip, so I joke that my boss is the internet. Otherwise, Bendyworks has sponsored me, specifically to assist with the costs associated with my speaking engagements.

I also consult with businesses and conferences.

Recently I’ve been looking at applying for grants for specific community projects.

We’re so excited to assist Ashe in doing this work. She’s done so much to generate resources and inspire others in the community to get involved.

Check out some of her latest work, published on her site:

See Ashe’s list of upcoming speaking engagements to find a conference near you where you can hear one of her talks. You can support her work directly through Gittip.

Category: Community
Tags: Diversity