Manage episode 296294866 series 2287544
As a proud product of 1980s Harlem, Shireen Mitchell is an award-winning woman of color in tech with many talents: founder, author, speaker, social entrepreneur, nonprofit leader, advocate, diversity analyst, and strategist in the political, digital, and social realms.
Growing up, Shireen developed a love for computers while beating the neighborhood boys at games like Frogger and Galaga. Her mother responded by buying her an Atari and Commodore 64. She saw it as an investment—and she was right.
Shireen quickly learned as she got older that the world of tech was mainly reserved for men. This moment of truth became even more clear when she went to college. By the time she was building some of the first BBS boards and experimenting with the Gopher protocol, Shireen knew she needed to help other women learn to code. And this was about 30 years ago.
Shireen’s motivation to bring women (especially women of color) into the tech and computer realm quickly shifted to a different form of advocacy: she realized these same women needed protection from the vileness, sexism, racism, and threats that were already taking shape in the early days of the consumerized internet.
Our candid talk with Shireen is a profound teaching moment. And it’s so good we couldn’t cut too much of it, so we’ve broken it up into two episodes. In our seventh episode of season four, Shireen outlines the ongoing struggles Black women have in tech while offering up some blunt and insightful advice to young Black women looking to get a foot in the door. You’ll also hear why it was a problem for Shireen to have a high reading level at a young age, how Pac-man was actually made to attract women gamers, her surprising experiences attending an HBCU, and why men were begging to attend her women’s coding classes in D.C. in the early 90s.
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Stop Online Violence Against Women - A nonprofit that addresses inadequate laws and policies that lack protections for women in particular women of color
- The History of Pac-Man - The clip Shireen mentioned that discusses how Pac-Man was created to appeal to girls
- Facebook cracked down ahead of the Chauvin verdict. Why not always? - LA TImes article featuring thoughts from Shireen
- Timnit Gebru - A widely respected leader in AI ethics research known for co-authoring a groundbreaking paper that showed facial recognition to be less accurate at identifying women and people of color
MUSICAL INSPIRATION FOR THIS EPISODE ON SPOTIFY:
ABOUT THIS PODCAST
Stayin' Alive in Tech is an oral history of Silicon Valley and technology. Melinda Byerley, the host, is a 20-year veteran of Silicon Valley and the founder of Fiddlehead, a digital marketing intelligence firm based in San Francisco.
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