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#WomenTechmakers in Delhi and Around the World

I spoke at GDG New Delhi's #WomenTechmakers event on Women's Day 2014. Around the world, other GDG chapters were holding their own #WomenTechmakers events - more than 100, apparently. Here's what I said, and some of the great work being done globally by women in tech.

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  1. An introduction to the Women Techmakers project, including info about the series here, talks by Google's women engineers on the products they're building, chats with global women technologists in their native languages, and more.
  2. Here's the G+ community:
  3. In New Delhi, we met at the Google Office in Gurgaon. When I arrived around 11:30, there were about 100 people already there, listening to Google Community Manager Shrey Malhotra. We were also on a live link with a chapter in China.
  4. First talk: Charuvi Agrawal, who founded the 3D design studio Charuvi Design Labs. They're working on Shri Hanuman Chalisa, an interactive experienced based on the ancient Hindu stories surrounding Hanuman. What caught my eye: the attention to detail and extraordinary creativity they're bringing to their storytelling, combining techniques like 3D printing and augmented reality.
  5. Charuvi Agrawal at GDG Women Techmakers New Delhi 2014
  6. There's way more on their website. I grabbed Charuvi for a long chat afterwards about the challenges of finding talent for ambitious projects like hers. She talked about how she invests anywhere from 6 months to a year in training the people she hires. She's now working on an experience-based show.
  7. Then it was my turn. I used thestartup quote "what problem are you trying to solve?" as the pin for my talk, and mentioned that the coders in the room could donate their time and energy to causes that need them. First issue I spoke about: online harassment, particularly harassment that targets women. Women receive about 30x as many abusive and sexually threatening messages as men online. I asked the audience to raise their hands if any of them had ever experienced online misogyny. Every single hand went up. One woman talked about a friend who left FB for a year because of a terrifying online stalking incident. A few stats from a Pac Stan article that came out earlier and started a lot of the debate:
  8. What's the solution? I talked about the Twitter misogyny tracker that a group had built at the recent HH New Delhi hackathon. They also built an auto-responder that replied to Tweets containing sexist language. The idea was to track online harassment - we found 40k instances in just a few hours - as well as create a culture of greater accountability for what we say online. (More info about that project at the link below)
  9. Second problem: women's stories aren't part of the mainstream. In India, for eg, FB's audience is some 75% male. Solution? I highlighted the work of Video Volunteers, who are training rural women in video and audio production.
  10. I also talked about the great work that CGNet Swara is doing. They've built an IVR-based smartphone network in rural India. Citizens have used the network to secure services and payments that were long overdue, as well as pursue legal action. One example: the story of a headmaster accused of rape who was finally arrested after a series of phone calls through Swara. (More impact stories below)
  11. I also talked about Wikipedia editing groups, who are using collaborative tools to increase women's presence online. At the recent HH New Delhi hackathon, for example, one group added context about women's issues to existing entries about recent, large-scale news events. (For example, sexual assault allegations during the Muzaffarnagar religious riots)
  12. A third problem: lack of safety in public spaces. Solution: I talked about the crowd-sourced incident reports that organizations like Whypoll and SafeCity are collecting on the Ushahidi platform, and the opportunities to treat and analyze these data and share targeted results/recommendations with policymakers.
  13. Up next: we moved to another room, and Shambhavi Singh introduced Feminist Approach to Technology. Their mission, in her words, is to empower women to "create and participate in the process of technology development." Their activities are threefold. They have a center in Lajpat Nagar where they teach women and girls how to use tech tools. Then they have a research program, where they design and pursue provocative research questions like "Why do women in India opt out of STEM programs when data show they perform well?" And finally, they work within government schools. (There was a lot of interesting material in Shambhavi's pres, and I'm hoping she'll put her full slides online)
  14. But Delhi wasn't the only place where such an event was happening.  A few snapshots of Women Techmakers events from around the world:
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