Celebrating Diversity at eBay's Lesbians Who Tech Event

Gail Frederick, Sr. Director of Engineering

The Summit showcased top tech talent focused on changing the world and drew more than 2,500 attendees.

I’m a woman in tech, and I’m a lesbian in tech and I’m open about who I am. At eBay, I feel support that starts at the top for “being my authentic self at work.” However, many LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people in tech are still seeking safe professional spaces, especially globally. That’s why it is so important that eBay sponsored the fourth annual Lesbians Who Tech (LWT) San Francisco Summit Feb 23-26, 2017 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

The Summit showcased top tech talent who are changing the world, and who happen to be women in tech, LGBTQ women and women of color. The goal with LWT is to push the tech industry to become representative of the people who live in this country.

More than 2,500 lesbians, queer women and their allies gathered in the historic Castro district in San Francisco for Lesbians Who Tech. eBay sponsored 19 employees to attend. The weekend started on Thursday evening Feb 23 with a Tech Crawl. eBay came out in full force with swag, cookies from Hot Cookie and all-new Golden Gate pride t-shirts! Lorena Martinez and Joei Moore recruited from the booth talking about how they love working at eBay, what the culture is like and about the communities we have within eBay. The Tech Crawl was packed with engineers. Visitors to our booth and LWT staff all agreed that eBay’s new Golden Gate pride t-shirts were the very best, most awesome sponsor shirts for any tech event ever, anywhere.

Friday Feb 24 and Saturday Feb 25 were action-packed days with sessions about hardware, VR, machine learning, cybersecurity, cloud, human rights and many other topics of interest to tech folks. Saturday afternoon, I spoke at the QBar about The Art of Shipping Public APIs, in the event’s Engineering + Leadership track.

twoqHere are the people and moments from Lesbians Who Tech that inspired me the most:

Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, gave an unforgettable keynote address on “Fighting Systemic Racism While Simultaneously Healing.” Patrisse led a packed, standing-room-only audience at Castro Theatre in a rousing call-and-response session that left everyone energized.

Hazel Havard, software engineer at Workday, spoke about improving work culture for trans women. She presented data about the importance of gender-inclusive bathrooms. She also spoke at Grace Hopper Conference in October 2016, and I appreciated her honesty in recounting the challenges of trans women in the workplace, and in identifying simple first steps, like asking about pronouns and providing inclusive bathrooms, that help build inclusive companies. 

Megan Smith, 3rd CTO of the United States of America, gave a keynote interview with Kara Swisher, co-founder of Recode, recapping Megan’s incredible engineering career at MIT, Google X, and the Obama Administration.

Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech, declared that hiring graduates of coding bootcamps into junior engineering roles increases corporate diversity. Pittsford also gave clear calls to action on how companies can do this with a new product launched by Lesbians Who Tech called include.io in her talk, Apathy is Not an Option.

Brook Shelley from Turbine Labs in Portland, OR spoke about her company’s path to continuous delivery and a DevOps mentality in her session “When you Go From Just Writing Code to Deploying Software.” Brook’s professional journey to test-first engineering culture and continuous integration and deployment of software was important to me, as CPT embarks on its own continuous delivery transformation (at scale) this year.

Ace Portis from Transgender Law Center shared the grim reality that only a very minor amount of LGBT fundraising is directed to the transgender community. They also announced #TransformTech, an inclusive tech event for the trans community, April 13, 2017 at Salesforce HQ in San Francisco

Laura Sydell from NPR, traced one “fake news” article from its online presence all the way to its author and company owner, and asked tech leaders to use our coding skills to help highlight truth and authenticity in online news.

I bumped into Dominique Hollins, eBay’s leader of United in Pride, many times during the Summit. Each time, her limitless energy spilled out into the Castro Theatre as she shared her own inspirations: “Gail, I just saw X speak, and now we need to do A, B and C at eBay as fast as we can.”

I attended the Retention, Recruitment and Inclusion Executive Forum, an invite-only forum for tech leaders working to increase corporate diversity. The executive forum brought together leaders from IBM, Mozilla, Symantec, Atlassian, Salesforce and other tech companies to share strategies and best practices for diversity and inclusion. I was inspired by the strong, affirmative action recounted in the forum, especially by IBM, Mozilla and Salesforce in support of their global communities of inclusion. This session reminded me that, in my role as Sr Director of Engineering, my work aspires to represent “guerilla diversity” - using my oversight and influence as a leader to increase diversity in my team and across eBay, without an official D&I charter.

Thank you to everyone at eBay who helped us come out strongly in support of equality and inclusion at Lesbians Who Tech this year.