Houston chapter looks to expand in 2018.
By Jenny Block
Houstonian Veronica Diaz first learned about Lesbians Who Tech while she was unemployed in Austin in 2016. “One of the recruiters that I met at a networking event invited me to an all-day, female-driven, queer-friendly TechUP event,” Diaz explains. “Doesn’t all of that sound amazing? Who wouldn’t want to go to that?”
Diaz, who has been a web developer for over a decade, says she’s often the only female on a team. “So I was super stoked when I arrived at Austin’s Atlassian office filled with other female techies,” she says.
Lesbians Who Tech (LWT) defines itself as a “community of queer women in or around tech (and the people who love them).” In other words, it is a space where LGBTQ women in the tech world can find support and resources, as well as a social home base. Founded by Leanne Pittsford in 2014, the group now boasts more than 30,000 members in over 35 chapters worldwide.
Within a few months of joining LWT in Austin, Diaz was named a recipient of the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship, named for the late LGBTQ-rights pioneer. “The award paid for half of my tuition and allowed me to attend UT Austin’s full-stack Coding Boot Camp,” she says. “I am forever grateful for Lesbians Who Tech and Edie Windsor. It was then that I decided to pay it forward and bring Lesbians Who Tech to my hometown of Houston. I mean, it’s the fourth-largest city. We’ve got to have some lesbian techies.”
The Houston chapter of Lesbians Who Tech, which formally launched a few years ago, is looking to expand in 2018. “We’ve added several new leaders, and plan to have a Houston meetup every month,” Diaz says.
The group’s gatherings alternate between purely social and partly informational. The December event was a résumé review hosted at PROS, a tech company with offices in downtown Houston. The social meetups are generally held at Pearl Bar.
“We are here to be an inclusive and supportive space for the queer and trans woman in the tech field,” Diaz says. “Many of us work with or near developers but don’t actually code, so don’t be scared by the ‘tech’ in Lesbians Who Tech.”
Three of the Houston chapter’s leaders—Carrie Newhouse, Kim Watson, and Allie Glenney—work at PROS. After launching an LGBTQ employee-resource group called [email protected] in 2017, they began looking for ways to be active in the community. In December, they attended a Lesbians Who Tech Summit in New York City.
“Houston had just been devastated by Harvey a couple of weeks before,” Newhouse says. “There was a hackathon focused on developing Harvey reliefs apps, and the summit organizers made a donation to the [Montrose Center’s] Hurricane Harvey LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund. The summit was incredibly activism-focused, and it was amazing to see that focus directed toward our own city.”
When they returned to Houston, they were inspired to get involved locally and contacted Diaz to see how they could help.
“Our members run the gamut of the LGBTQIAA and ally spectrum—all ages and backgrounds,” Newhouse says. “Many of us are surrounded by cis men in our day jobs. It’s really nice to walk into an LWT meeting and immediately feel seen or understood. Nobody has to come out at an LWT meeting. There is a baseline understanding of your experience, and at the same time, there is so much we can learn from each other.
“There are relatively few of us, especially in non-tech hub cities, so coming together as a group is super-important,” she adds. “If you work to move this mission forward, we want you on our team. We are gathering more voices in more rooms so we can actively make change in our communities and our companies.”
Lesbians Who Tech hosts Houston gatherings on the fourth Wednesday of every month. The next event will be a happy hour from 6 to 8 p.m. on January 24 at Pearl Bar.
This article appears in the January 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine