Written byColby Hochmuth
Women in technology, it’s time to lean in.
That’s the message Tech LadyMafia is trying to send. The organization launched two years ago, when friends Aminatou Sow and Erie Meyer came across an eerie (no pun intended) statistic.
Sow said she and long-time pal Meyer received an article highlighting the dearth of women in technology. However, as professionals working in the tech field, Sow said they knew this notion was false and wondered why women techies weren’t being recognized.
“When those statistics came out, it made us feel invisible,” Sow said. “We realized we needed a stronger network, and needed to find ways to mentor and help each other.”
Tech LadyMafia started out with a Listserv of about 40 women. Two years later, 700 women from all over the world subscribe to it.
Tech LadyMafia has a series of mailing lists on TechLadyMafia.com, and those interested can also applying for membership. Once you become a member, you’re instantly connected to a network of women in tech who serve as confidantes, event planners, resources and inspiration.
There’s even a “brag Listserv” that urges the women to boast about any of their impressive achievements.
“Women just don’t brag enough about the cool things they do at work,” Sow said. “Women hearing other women’s stories gives them more confidence in the workplace.”
There’s also a job board that enables women to network. Members can let other women know if they’re hiring or looking for a specific position, or simply need a connection at a certain place. It’s also not uncommon for men to reach out to the site when looking for women employees.
Tech LadyMafia also has a strong group of men who supports its cause. “It’s not a fight; women want to be recognized,” Sow explained. “It doesn’t mean we’re anti-men. Everyone is going to have to pitch in to help; women can’t solve it alone.”
Growing Tech LadyMafia wasn’t difficult for Meyer and Sow. Once word got out about an exclusive “women in tech” group, membership grew exponentially. That didn’t stop Meyer and Sow from using more creative means of recruitment, however.
The two used to go to tech events and in the bathrooms put business cards that said: “Are you a lady in tech? You should join the mafia.”
Tech LadyMafia hosts events all over the country, taking different forms, including informal meetups and networking events, or cryptography or coding workshops. Nothing is really off limits, according to Sow.
In D.C., there’s about one event every month, typically drawing in women in tech reporting and technologists in the federal government.
Sow said she and Meyer hope Tech LadyMafia continues to grow and influence women in tech. “Every time there’s an article written about technology and a woman isn’t quoted, we want to change that,” Sow said. “And we want more women on panels at technology events. We hope women hearing other women’s stories will inspire them.”