The last major news story involving a woman in Silicon Valley was a dispiriting account of sexism in the industry. Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao sued her former employer, famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, for gender-based discrimination, citing missed opportunities for promotions because of her gender and her eventual termination as a result of her complaints.
A jury eventually handed Pao a sweeping loss, prompting some to express deep (and legitimate) worries about opportunities for women in Silicon Valley. Even before the verdict came down, sexism in tech was the focus of most media coverage. As the Daily Beast wrote a few weeks before the jury made its decision, "gender discrimination is the bane of the tech industry's reputation."
Some women are fighting back. Enter Women of Silicon Valley, a Humans of New York-inspired project that documents the ladies of the tech world.
Like its forebear, Women of Silicon Valley features a portrait of one person accompanied by a quick interview and biography. The women are company founders, software engineers, CEOs and product managers; some are old, some are young; some are experienced, some are just starting out.
"I want to celebrate these living and thriving examples of female success," Lea Coligado, WOSV mastermind and computer science student at Stanford University, explains in a launch video. "I want women who are sitting on the fence about computer science to get as inspired as I was by these role models, and hopefully, to see that at its heart, tech is exciting, immensely powerful and so, so worth it."
According to Coligado, the idea was prompted in part by the sexism she and her female peers frequently experience while working in tech.
After completing a summer stint at Facebook, for example, Coligado told an acquaintance about the experience; he responded by saying, "Oh, well, then I should have applied for that internship too." Yet only moments before, the same man had praised one of Coligado's male friends who completed the same program, telling him, "Wow, Facebook! You must be really smart!"
"I was floored," she says in the launch video. "It's been two years since that moment, and these two years have brought an entire suite of more negative, almost comically sexist behavior."
But while many of the women profiled touch on the importance of diversity and gender issues in the workplace, the posts also take on a distinctly uplifting tone, much like on Humans of New York.
"I feel like a trailblazer being the first woman at my company to have a baby while working there," says Sara Mauskopf, product lead at Postmates.
"Go fast, work hard, be yourself, trust yourself and you will find the people you are supposed to do great things with," advises Lindi Emoungu, a software engineer at Google.
Rather than focus solely on sexism, Coligado wants the project to celebrate the strong women who barrel through it. Her project is designed to promote role models for those who feel they have nobody but themselves to rely on.
"As a woman who's worked in almost entirely male environments, I know being able to look up to someone is crucial for getting through rough patches, for feeling a sense of belonging to your work," she told BuzzFeed.