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Alicia Keys moderates 'Women in Tech' session at BlackBerry Live

By Alicia Erlich on 15 May 2013 12:42 pm EDT
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When Alicia Keys took the stage at the BlackBerry Live keynote she not only brought up the scholars program for women in tech, but also mentioned an astonishing statistic: 56% of BlackBerry users are women. Building on that momentum, Ms. Keys moderated a session later in the day titled Women in Tech: Redefining Ambition with a distinguished panel that consisted of Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code, Elisa Camahort-Page of BlogHer, and Leila Janah, Founder of Samasource. 

The main focus of this session was to not be another “women in tech panel”, but more of a conversation kickstarter. Each panelist brought their own unique view on what this concept means to them and their role in the tech world. They also delved into how important it was to foster and inspire the women in our life (i.e. Wives, sisters, daughters, etc.) especially teenagers so that they can be bold moving forward and be a “champion of ambition.”  

Some interesting facts and figures brought up was how far women have come. Back in 1976 the number of working women with children was only 18% while as of today the number has skyrocketed to 86%. Furthermore, 66% of women produce the world's output but only earn 10% of the income and 1% of the assets, and 85% of consumer purchases are women. When you think about it, you wonder why more women aren't in technology related positions today.

Topics varied from having flexibility to juggle work and, home, etc, to the question of whether or not to leave a steady corporate job to venture out as an entrepreneur. In that respect they discussed examples from their own experiences including how our culture needs to be redefined so that every gender can work together. For example, Leila took the opportunity to share examples of women in poverty stricken nations she's helped become the primary breadwinner and how they have found a way (in that society) for that new role to be socially and culturally acceptable. Her non-profit organization, Samasource, helps unemployed women in impoverished countries find digital work in hopes of alleviating poverty. 

Frank Boulben closed out the panel by posing the following question: "What can we do beyond raising awareness?” How do we let women of all ages know the opportunities they are missing?  In a concise manner he set forth two steps to help start this journey: 1) Awareness: Having Access to further initiatives and programs, and 2) Concrete Action: how they themselves can initiate the move forward (i.e. As Elisa stated, encouraging people to teach themselves Computer Science). This is a new direction BlackBerry is undertaking with programs to encourage women to enter in the technology field and having Alicia Keys lead the way by being Global Creative Director. 

So many questions were raised that understandably could not be discussed in the short time the panel had though I did wish it was more than the 30-45 minutes allotted. However, it was thought-provoking, made a lasting impression, and opens an ongoing discussion on what it means to be a woman passionate about technology.

Reader comments

Alicia Keys moderates 'Women in Tech' session at BlackBerry Live

43 Comments

I would have loved to take part in that discussion! I'm working with youth in a STEM program that could benefit from possible partnerships with people in that room. Amazing.

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Women with long nails generally hate touchscreens. Physical keyboards are easier for typing with long nails. My wife is one of those women :)

What's the statistic for having taken a job from some other woman. Who would have been far more qualified.

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That's a strong (and negative) assumption about her qualifications. To assume she is unqualified because of her celebrity status is blatantly immature.

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I think what skerur meant was, "What's the statistic that shows how many men are chosen for a position over a more qualified woman simply because they are men?"

The two statistics you mentioned explain why women AREN'T INTERESTED. They don't earn the majority of the worlds income yet they spent 85% of it. They have MEN to work for them while they control the resources. This is as it has been since time began. We are a MATRIARCHAL society as much as a patriarchal one.

I do no support hate movements and bigotry. Feminism is a hate movement and will solve no problems.

They are correct that the number of women with children working has increased. But they have cause and effect backwards. It has increased mostly thanks to feminist influence, but out of necessity not desire. Feminism has succeeded in increasing wages for women through DECREASING them for men and taking away all the high paying jobs for the working class. So now two incomes are REQUIRED to enjoy the same lifestyle that Western societies used to be able to enjoy on one income.

This would be okay IF there was as much activism for men as there is for women. If we were encouraging female doctors to marry male nurses who could stay at home and care for the kids. Speaking of which, we need more male nurses, and child care workers and teachers and every other profession that is dominated by females.

You won't get any more women in the board room without more men in the nursery. If we put more women in Tech through artificial means like the BlackBerry scholarship program we end up only benefiting women at the cost of hurting men. We already live in a society where opportunity favors females from birth. These kinds of programs are simply trying to make outcomes favor women as well. But will all the women who take advantage of programs like the BlackBerry scholars program also marry husbands that they are willing to provide for? Or will female coders like female doctors still tend to reject men who have lower earning power then themselves and marry up?

What I am saying is that the above mentioned stats do not reflect any form of discrimination against women as that is virtually non-existent in Western society. The statistics merely reflect that the males and females have a tendency to make different choices in life. More women have degrees. This is true. But, those women with degrees aren't CHOOSING to climb the corporate ladder. They are choosing to drop out of the rat race, marry a man who can provide for them and continue to enjoy 85% of the purchasing power. Who wouldn't if that was an option available to them? But, since that option is exclusively available to women, putting more of them in math and science will not increase productivity of society as a whole and as long as we live in a society that is bias towards women already, will merely lead to the need for bigger prisons to house the men who were denied the opportunities while we as a society chase an incorrect philosophy that is trying to force equal outcomes through sexist promotion of women over men without any corresponding cultural shift the other way.

We cannot simply put women in positions of power and in male dominated fields without a corresponding amount of activism and cultural shift for men to take on traditionally female roles and professions without ridicule and hate.

Who rules the world isn't measured by who has the corner office. That's just who gets the most women. Who rules the world is who controls the resources. When you get to spend 85% of the money without working the 60hr+ weeks that executive level employees tend to work, I'd say you're at an advantage. If you represent only 1 out of every 10 workplace fatalities, I'd say you are at an advantage. When you represent only 2% of the workforce performing the most dangerous, high risk jobs which is why you only represent 10% of all workplace fatalities, I'd say you have an advantage. Wen you represent 52% of the population and live 8 years longer on average, I'd say that's an advantage.

So until those discrepancies are addressed, the BlackBerry Scholars program just represents another of the myriad of programs already in existence to promote women at the expense of men.

Alica and her hateful feminist ideology in an influential role really makes it hard to support BlackBerry. It is simply impossible to address the social inequities of women without also addressing those facing men. Feminism by name and definition is an ideology that can only lead to more social inequity by attempting to create gender parity only where women are underrepresented.

You need not stress so much. Some women will carry a Torch long term in the corporate world, but most adventually will want children and that will make most choose the norm, find a man and spend his money. And that works for both. Deep down, real men like to provide and real women like to raise great kids for their men. I have had it both ways. When my wife worked at a paying job and when she stayed at home with the kids. Option 2 was so much better for the family.

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If that is the case, why put women in spots that will not lead to long term benefits for society if they are more likely to abandon them without pursuing careers? Forcing equal outcomes is not the right answer.

You kind of fail to acknowledge something. A lot of times relationships between a woman in a high paying job and a man of a lower paying job doesn't work out not because the woman rejects the man, but because the male ego cannot tolerate being the lower of the two and that causes tension in the household. I'm not saying that's 100% of the case, but I do know for a fact that does happen, A LOT. Luckily I'm not like that, I'd love for my woman to earn more and she can be my sugar-mama, lol. :-P

I would suggest that would be the very small minority of cases. Studies have shown that females have a preference - probably millions of years old through evolution - to look for a mate of superior earning potential to herself. Female Doctors date male hospital board members not male nurses in general. Men however do not demonstrate any preference in this regard one way or the other in studies. I am not providing links cause this is not a site for such things, but if interested I can provide you with allot of clinical evidence that refutes your theory that it is male ego that it is keeping men from dating mates with greater earning potential then themselves.

If you say so. I don't really know where to look to find a study on what ends most relationships between a richer woman and a poorer man, but from my own personal experience with people I know, it's usually the guys that end up breaking down about not being the "bread winner" of the couple... Not saying my personal experiences represent the population worldwide or anything, just saying that's the main pattern I've noticed...

Nope. I've been with the same woman for 8 years now and counting. I just do not like sexism of any variety even if it's being presented by a celebrity

SuperionMaximus, perhaps you are frustrated because you have misunderstood feminism. The point of feminism is not hate, nor is it to simply take a myopically or blindly pro-woman stance on any issue; this is a narrative that was co-opted by our societal institutions when the movement mainstreamed.

The concept of “choice" is very central to feminist ideology— the freedom to live the lives we want. That said, when you say "But, those women with degrees aren't CHOOSING to climb the corporate ladder.", I can't help but think that your understanding of what constitutes ‘choice’ in this sense requires some more nuancing. Yes, some women do choose not to pursue their career, and instead manage the home— but we recognize that this is a role that has been historically gendered. While the waves of the feminist movement allowed women to break into the workforce, it has yet to succeed in making the men equal partners in raising the family. As a result, women in Western societies face the unique pressure of having to contribute to household income while balancing the immense societal expectation to take care of raising the family. And what feminists lament is that women are often forced to put personal commitment over professional fulfillment. This has a direct and profound impact on the way the world is run, and which perspectives are privileged in business, media, politics and legislature, and so on.

The article above also mentioned “redefining culture”—I agree. Women are socialized from birth to be “womanly”, and that often doesn’t involve taking a job at a tech company (and for men, becoming a nurse, or caregiver). I’m glad you’ve mentioned that it wouldn’t be right for women to enter the tech and other male-associated industries without more men entering female-associated ones. It is important that we recognize the need to liberate women from gender roles, because when we do so, we also liberate men from them.

However, the latter is clearly beyond the jurisdiction of BlackBerry, which is a company in the male-dominated tech industry. The fact is that BlackBerry is doing its part in trying to ensure an equality of opportunities for women and men by creating avenues for choice. I should hope that other female-associated industries would take affirmative action to the opposite.

This general approach BlackBerry is taking to expanded their brand beyond business is nice. Good move.

"Back in 1976 the number of working women with children was only 18% while as of today the number has skyrocketed to 86%."

I wonder if this is out of choice or necessity, as median income adjusted for inflation has plummetted in the same time period and many households can no longer get by with only one breadwinner.

"Furthermore, 66% of women produce the world's output but only earn 10% of the income and 1% of the assets, and 85% of consumer purchases are women."

While it's obviously wrong for women to earn less for doing the same work, producing 66% of the output but having 85% of the purchasing power sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Wanna trade? :)

Wow I wasn't aware of all these statistics!

Alicia OWNED the keynote yesterday! And she's making huge strides, her stage presence was second to none, and barely even looked at the teleprompter on the floor. Let's see how she really pushes BlackBerry going forward.

Alicia seemed a bit awkward and forced at the session, but this is a new venture for her and I think she handled herself quite well. The other speakers were great and very passionate about the issues. A very enjoyable discussion and quite enlightening to hear as a white American male.

when are you actually going to post any videos of the events. Some of use have day jobs so can't follow it "LIVE"

I'm a bloke....we make up the other 46% of BBRY buyers...i'm pleased to announce that my sister loves the Pink Q5 and I will buy it to replace her cheap non-smart Nokia phone,for an early Xmas prezzie, cause she loves the keyboard...and the pink colour....so...how about for those of us who are CrackBerries and want BBRY to succeed, buy both the Z10.....and the Q10.....or Q5......we must keep this company going people.....all hail King T.Heins.....!

For me and my fella I'm the breadwinner and probably always will be. My man has no intention of getting up off his lazy ass and earning a living. I have 1 part time job (which I'm at right now) and need to be earning more so I can say bye bye to hand outs and not be poor anymore (I hate being on benefits!)... we like high earning men because at some point the majority of us will want kids and so won't be working for a few years and we will need that money and support. My boyfriend is slowly but surely killing me by draining my already tiny income that can't even support me let alone him as well. In the future he will not change or do anything to support me. I wonder why I'm even with this guy. I'd love to have a proper future with this guy cuz he's lovely but he's just impossible. No wonder women are picking up the slack!

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