DOKUTECH Conference shines light on women’s empowerment through technology

Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tech Enthusiasts Gather Outside the Entrance to Termokiss Photo: UN Women/Tyler Kone
Tech Enthusiasts Gather Outside the Entrance to Termokiss. Photo: UN Women/Tyler Kone

DOKUTECH, an annual technology conference in Kosovo[1], celebrated its 5th anniversary by bringing the conference to Pristina for the first time. The convention organized on 9 and 10 June, brought together tech executives, entrepreneurs, and top tier future talent to discuss the social implications and challenges of new technologies, including the urgent need for more female participation in this male-dominated industry.

Leaders in the field of technology and enthusiasts from across the globe gathered at Termokiss, an old concrete warehouse remodeled in 2016 as one of the city’s first-ever social centers. The building and its surroundings perfectly set the stage for the hands-on conference, with sponsored tents ranging from innovative new tech to local food and drink caterers dotted around the area.

With women leaving the tech industry at a rate 45 percent higher than men globally, and only 17 percent of the tech workforces of companies like Google being female, this years’ conference featured progressive sessions focusing on women in the industry.

LiKWUiD Leads the Crowd in a Rhyming Exercise. Photo: UN Women/Tyler Kone
LiKWUiD Leads the Crowd in a Rhyming Exercise. Photo: UN Women/Tyler Kone

“Women’s voices are among the most marginalized, and I want young girls to know their voice matters,” said New York DJ, songwriter, rapper and Artivist (artist/activist), Faybeo'n LaShanna A. Mickens. Better known as LiKWUiD, Ms. Mickens works to empower underprivileged youth in her home city. She demonstrated teaching the enthralled audience basic DJing and music mixing techniques during her ‘Empowering Girls through Music and DJing’ workshop.

Emily Reid Leads Her Discussion on Diversity, Technology, & Social Change on the Main Stage. Photo: Tyler Kone UN Women
Emily Reid Leads Her Discussion on Diversity, Technology, & Social Change on the Main Stage. Photo: Tyler Kone UN Women

“The gender gap in technology needs to be narrowed, as technology plays such an important role in all of our lives,” said Emily Reid, Founder of Girls Who Code and current owner of E.E. Reid Consulting. During her talk on ‘Diversity, Technology, and Social Change’ she challenged the audience to picture a computer scientist. Most said they imagined someone like Mark Zuckerburg, a white male in his mid-thirties. Emily stated this is because women are rarely in the tech spotlight. She called on women in tech to become more active role models. “There are females who just aren’t role models, we need to change the mindset for these women to be role models,” she said.

Alex Qin on the Main Stage with a Slide Demonstrating Men's Excuses Behind their Actions. Photo UN Women
Alex Qin on the Main Stage with a Slide Demonstrating Men's Excuses Behind their Actions. Photo: UN Women

Meanwhile, Alex Qin’s talk entitled: ‘How Shaving My Head Made Me a Better Programmer’, captivated the audience. Director of Technology at Gakko and founder of Code Cooperative, a program that teaches coding to former inmates, Ms. Qin shared her stories of exclusion and harassment in the male dominated tech industry.

“Because I’m a hacker I decided to hack at my appearance. I stopped being a hyper-sexualized programmer,” said Ms. Qin about shaving her head. “I didn’t present as feminine anymore so it was okay for me to be a programmer [in the eyes of men]. However, it’s not me who should have to change, it’s the tech industry that should change.”

With technology affecting everyone, a key conclusion reached by all the speakers was that it should come from more diverse backgrounds. And, with women like Ms. Qin, Ms. Mickens, and Ms. Reid leading the charge, a more diverse workforce in the tech industry could soon be a reality.

The event was organized by the IPKO Foundation, the Share Foundation and by DOKUFEST. Supporting Sustainable Development Goals, DOKUTECH was sponsored by UN Women and other UN agencies of the United Nations Kosovo Team.

[1] All references to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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