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Blog, Women In Tech

Jocelyn Leavitt and Samantha John look like they could be anyone’s best friend. With easy smiles, casual wear, and incredibly interesting stories, they’re the tech startup founders we’ve all been waiting for. Jocelyn is a self-proclaimed lover of the outdoors, and Samantha is a marathon runner who also taught herself to program.

These two brilliant women teamed up to create Hopscotch, a new programming language so simple, even kids could use it. In fact, children were exactly the demographic that they had in mind when they founded the startup. Their mission is to teach kids to program from a very young age through interactive and fun ways. With a simple drag and drop system, they can make their own mini-games, drawings, animations, websites, and more. Through play, they intuitively learn the core fundamentals of programming that are¬†further developed later on. What’s best, this is the first programming language that is mobile-friendly, so kids can use it on their tablets and smartphones.

It’s difficult to underestimate the power of this startup. Not only is it making programming accessible to children, it is also bringing women into the forefront of the tech startup scene. With numerous awards and recognitions, they are breaking the mold of what successful entrepreneurs look like, and setting an example of professional women being awesome. Perhaps more importantly, however, they are also sending a message to children that programming isn’t a ‚Äúboys only‚ÄĚ club, and that women have a lot to offer in the tech industry.


Blog, Women In Tech
When Dr. Isaac Asimov published I, Robot, in 1950, he brought robots and their fascinating positronic brains into mainstream consciousness.

He also introduced the first woman in robotics, Dr. Susan Calvin.

This is how he described her: “She was a frosty girl, plain and colorless, who protected herself against a world she disliked by a mask-like expression and a hypertrophy of intellect.”

Dr. Asimov would be delighted to find himself wrong, and living in a world where the frosty girls of robotics are charming, articulate, and moving the world of machine learning and robotics in directions even he never imagined. Women in robotics are heading innovative labs in universities across the world, developing applications for every imaginable system, size, and use.

Here are some of the amazing women of robotics.

Robogal Marita Chen is the founder and CEO of 2Mar Robotics. She founded Robogals when she was an undergrad to encourage girls to investigate STEM; the program is now global in reach.¬† She talks about being a maker in her TED Talk. Cynthia Breazeal from MIT has developed groundbreaking work in social robotics and human-robot interactions. She is founder and Chief Scientist of Jibo, Inc, an open-platform startup that brings social robots into homes for family use. Her TED Talk on the rise of personal robots is one of TED’s most popular.

Engineergirl Ayanna Howard works out of Georgia Tech combining human cognitive capabilities into the control pathways of autonomous systems–robotic limbs! In her show for Dragonfly TV, a PBS Kid’s show, she explains artificial intelligence and machine learning so easily that every eight year old girl in the world is asking for an erector set for Christmas.

Kaori Kuribayashi-Shigetomi is working on a fascinating field, designing living cells to power microrobotic structures. Her fascinating cells unfold and fold as natural systems, and she has used the art of origami to translate those natural systems into robotics.

Maarja Kruusma from the Tallinn Institute of Technology works in biorobotics, including recent work in flow dynamics. Her talk, How Fish Kiss, was given at the Barcelona Cognition, Brain, and Technology summer school.

Blog, Women In Tech
Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of Blendoor, has been awarded the Kevin J Mossier Next Generation Award by StartOut, the LBGTQ Entrepreneur Organization.
Blendoor¬†is a merit-based matching and recruiting app that reduces unconscious bias in the hiring process by hiding applicants’ names, pictures, and dates. Using data-driven metrics, Blendoor helps companies make better hiring decisions. Candidates also have a window into company diversity and inclusion. Stephanie¬†has an engineering degree from Stanford and an MBA from MIT. So when she found herself having difficulty finding a software engineering job in Silicon Valley, she had to wonder if being young made a difference? Or being a woman? Or being African-American? Or all three? She began researching diversity in¬†tech hiring. What she found were quantifiable variables in the perception of race, gender, and age, and tech company hiring decisions that reflected these variables.

When she developed Blendoor the unconscious barriers and variables that impact hiring decisions were moved out of the way. Several companies with strong diversity and inclusion programs, such as Intel and Google, signed up to use her app before it was launched. Since that time, she has had a number of high profile companies, such as Facebook and Apple, come on board. Hiding photos and names on resumes allows applicants a safe zone where accomplishments can shine. For traditionally excluded populations, Blendoor can be the first step toward a seat at the table.

There are several other tools tech companies are using to deal with diversity, inclusion, and hiring bias. Psychologists believe that it is difficult to impossible to remove unconscious bias. What they propose are solutions that will mitigate the effects of unconscious bias in the workplace. GapJumpers is a new startup that looks at job skills and performs blind auditions, rather than looking at resumes. For jobs and skills that can be self-taught, like coding, applicants without college or experience have a way to shine. Applicants are given a skills test, or a hands-on task to complete. The audition is based on the results of the work. Textio was developed by looking at unconscious gender bias in the language of job descriptions. They use analytics and a predictive model to assess the language used in job searches and descriptions. Phrases are highlighted and areas of concern addressed, with suggestions for improvement. Companies using the method are meeting their hiring goals of more qualified and diverse candidates.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology has published some “Promising Practices”¬†to help HR departments and hiring managers make decisions that reduce the impact of unconscious bias.SaveSave

Born in 1964, Megan Smith has been a role model in tech for many years. She graduated from MIT with a  degree in mechanical engineering. Between leading a team trying to provide world-wide WiFi and bringing more women into tech, she strives for digital inclusivity.

Chief Technology Officer for the United States

As the CTO for the United States, Megan Smith is in charge of assisting the Obama administration with the development of policies and initiatives relating to technology. She is also the first woman to hold the position and was appointed to the role in 2014. VP for Google X In her 9 years with Google, Smith assisted in the acquisition of Picasa and the software that would become Google Earth and Google Maps. She also became the Vice-President of Google X, which is the Google sub-company responsible for Google Glass and the self-driving car. She has also been involved with projects such as Loon and Wing.

Project Loon¬†seeks to bring WiFi connectivity to remote locations all over the world. Google plans to do this by using wind and solar-powered high-altitude balloons. These balloons will fly at twice the height of most commercial airplanes. While the beta test in 2013 didn’t go as well as they hoped, the company plans¬†to have the technology available as early as 2020.

Project Wing¬†is currently developing flying delivery-drones.¬†Not only will these drones be capable of quickly delivering goods, similar to Amazon’s drones, they will also be able to deliver goods to remote locations. This project has the potential to be helpful in emergency situations, such as getting emergency supplies to a lost or injured hiker while he is waiting to be rescued.

CEO of PlanetOut

PlanetOut was an entertainment company targeting the LGBT demographic. The company worked with AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN to create an LGBT-friendly community. Smith worked as the COO before becoming the CEO in 2001. The company’s exposure increased ten-fold under her leadership. SaveSave