What do you get when you convene a group of powerhouse women in tech, startups, and social media? At the 4th annual Women Who Tech Telesummit on May 23, the result was a mix of passionate and thoughtful panel conversations about how to spark innovation and transformative, sustainable change in a number of fields. Diverse panels covered topics ranging from funding startups, working with open source code, digital rights and online privacy, to using technology and social media to build social justice movements, and fostering diversity in technical teams.
More than 600 women and a number of men from locations as varied as Kenya, Rwanda, Lebanon, and the United Kingdom attended in the telesummit.
Panels throughout the day provided a strong testament to the dynamic and effective ways in which women are innovating. A fascinating morning fireside chat and question and answer session provided insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by Di-Ann Eisnor, a neogeography (crowd-sourced mapping) pioneer and VP Community Geographer for Waze. As a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Eisnor seeks to increase the world’s citizen mappers.
Waze, a community-based GPS traffic and navigation app, is a testament to Eisnor’s passions. The application creates and updates dynamic maps that are generated while users of Wave drive with the application open. GPS points are used to update maps and detect and display traffic jams in real time. Users can participate more actively by reporting accidents, incorrect routes, and other issues, and they can upload photos. Waze is thinking big, with an infrastructure that started with support for 1 million users, now supports 10 million users, and will ultimately support 100 million users.
What inspires Eisnor? “My inspiration is still along the lines of how does life change when you make your own maps?” During her first trip to Israel to meet her colleagues at Waze, she worked on a social mapping project and took pictures that showed the importance of crossing borders and the experience of crossing borders, with “the main purpose to see how similar it is on the other side. Instead of foreign, things look familiar. There’s still a butcher, there’s still a baker, there’s still kids running in the street. I get my inspiration from there.”
When asked what advice she had for women, Eisnor did not mince words. “Don’t be afraid to kick ass. We’re not always encouraged and we have to be out of our comfort zone all the time, but what is the worst thing that can happen?”
With women in leadership roles, certainly many good things are happening. The following statistics, cited in the introductory remarks for the telesummit, speak powerfully to the impressive impact that results when women are in leadership positions:
Companies that have three women on their board of directors experience significant financial growth. For example:
- The average return on equity increased by 53%,
- The average return on sales increased by 42%, and
- The return on invested capital increased by 66%.
How do women develop their leadership skills to reach their full potential? Harnessing Your Power, an afternoon panel, provided a wealth of insight from Susan Mernit, Co-Founder, Editor and Publisher of Oakland Local; Lynne Johnson, Director of Digital & Social at Waggener & Edstrom North America; Elisa Camahort Page, Co-Founder, BlogHer, and Jill Foster, Founder, Live Your Talk. One key word of advice from Jill Foster, the panel moderator: “If you are willing to assert and grow ideas and ask for help in growing those ideas, you are going to see powerful results.”
Connie Rock is a writer, photographer, and inveterate traveler who has been to more than 30 countries. She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and will begin studies this fall in the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington. Her blog is at: http://connierock.com/blog.