Lesbians Who Tech – Our Kind of People

March 2016

We had the pleasure last week of sponsoring, attending, and speaking at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco. The main event was held in the Castro Theater, a historic landmark in the heart of the Castro District, and surrounding local restaurants and bars. While the summit is officially a technology conference, in reality it covers a variety of topics that queer women care about with a focus on tech. The talks covered a wide range of subjects, including the future of cancer research, emotional intelligence, and next steps in space exploration. The summit was inspiring and informative and we left having made many new friends.

Leanne Pittsford started Lesbians Who Tech in 2013. She describes it as “the community of queer women in and around tech (and the people who love them).” In three short years, it’s grown to become a global community with over 11,000 members. Their mission is to create community, increase visibility, and improve representation among women and lesbians in technology. The summit has rapidly grown each year with over 1,500 LGBTQ women (and allies) in attendance this year.

When we walked into the Castro Theater, the first thing we noticed was the amazing diversity among the attendees. The range of gender expression, race, and age represented was nothing less than awe inspiring. It almost makes you forget that the tech industry is predominantly made up of white and Asian men. The statistics about women in tech are all over the news these days. On average, the percentage of women in tech companies is 29% with only 15% of these women working in technical roles and 23% in leadership roles.

For both women and men, one of the main forms of compensation in the tech sector is stock options which, let’s be honest, are notoriously confusing. So, Rachel gave a workshop entitled “Decoding Your Equity Compensation” to help summit attendees better understand their stock options and restricted stock units. In her presentation, Rachel helped attendees differentiate between the various types of equity compensation and begin to understand the financial and tax implications of each. Presenting at the summit was a wonderful experience for Rachel and a great opportunity for us to further our goal of using our firm’s extensive financial knowledge to empower our greater community.

Another highlight of the conference was an interview with Edie Windsor and her attorney Robbie Kaplan. Many in the LGBTQ community know of Edie as the “Windsor” behind the United States v. Windsor Supreme Court case, but most don’t know that Edie was one of the original lesbians in tech long before tech was cool. She worked at IBM for two decades starting in the 1950s and attained the highest level technical position there: Senior Systems Programmer. Another fun fact we learned is that she received the first IBM PC delivered in New York City. Her lawsuit seeking the return of about $360,000 in estate taxes she had to pay because the federal government did not recognize her marriage to her long-time partner, Thea Spyer, was instrumental in dismantling the Defense of Marriage Act. Edie was charming and hilarious in telling her stories of working with early computers and her relationship with Thea.

This social-justice-meets-technology experience is unique and one of our favorite aspects about partnering with Lesbians Who Tech. Robasciotti & Philipson is a progressive wealth management firm, committed to advancing the wellbeing of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. We are particularly passionate about supporting the confluence of these groups, which makes the Lesbians Who Tech Summit a great way for us to connect with the communities we support. It’s also one of the most exciting and meaningful events we attend all year. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” and this conference left us feeling inspired and honored to be a part of a strong, empowered community.