On Sunday, Best Buy ran an ad showcasing a bunch of tech innovators — all of whom were dudes. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt — maybe those poor ad execs just didn't know how to find cool women in tech. So we did the work for them. Here are ten awesome ladies they could've featured.
Jen co-founded social networking platform Meebo, which "organizes the web around people, and helps build out their interest graph for easy, faster access to relevant info on the web." Here she is talking about the need for more female role models in tech, not just to inspire young girls but to encourage grown women to take risks in their careers.
Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard
Kaliouby and Picard co-founded Affectiva, whose products actually measure people's emotions using facial expressions and other cues. Applications include medical research, social networking, and even online games. El Kaliouby invented "the Affdex video-based expression recognition technology," and co-founded MIT's Autism Communication Technology Initiative. She says, "Emotions cut across every aspect of human experience – emotions affect how we interact and communicate with others, how we make decisions, what we eat and buy, how we learn, it affects our memories, our general health, our sleep .. everything really. So emotion-sensing devices really have the opportunity to help people better understand how their emotions affect their lives, and can help improve lives." Picard is an electrical engineer and inventor whose research has also led her to work with autistic people. Of this work, she says, "I find myself in a unique position to develop technology to help an amazing group of people: people who have been marginalised and yet have a ton to offer not only to scientists, but to the whole world. It feels like an extremely special opportunity that would have been difficult to craft in a deliberate fashion."
Ballantine developed rAPPidRevise, an app to help British kids and young adults study for their exams. She says, "My experience of teaching was that kids were already addicted to texting and being on their phones all day that the idea of putting learning in their hands, with a device that they could use, they might actually do it. I don't have a background in programming, I have a background in Science and teaching. I expected one of the big publishers to do it, but when they didn't I thought I would give it a go."
Chang is the co-founder of design studio Ideacodes, which has designed user interfaces for established companies like Ideo and newcomers like tech-review site gdgt. Chang also founded community design site PicoCool. She's also a sculptor, a digital video artist, and a surfer.
Culver's latest product is Grove, which sets up private chat servers for companies so coworkers can chat with each other easily. She also founded Pownce, which let people "send music, photos, messages, links, events, and other file[s]" to one another securely. Last year, her new year's resolution was "to get rid of as many physical things as I could" and "live in the cloud," using web-based services to replace "stuff."
Wixted made FarmVille and Pac-Man for iPhone, along with lots of other games. When TechFemme asked her what it was like to lead an all-male team at game developer Zynga, she said, "I don't know any different so it's hard to say. But I think individual differences outweigh the gender differences."
Hu founded Lark, a company that makes a wristband alarm that wakes you without waking your partner. It also helps you track and improve your sleep. In a post at Women 2.0, she talks about the guilt women sometimes feel when throwing themselves into their careers, and how they need supportive loved ones who can help them be a little selfish:
I started LARK because of my fiancé's sleep problems, but I was able to grow LARK as a company because he never allowed me to feel guilty when I didn't have enough time to pay attention to him while I was building LARK. I wish for all entrepreneurs to have this empathetic support.
Full disclosure: Julia and I went to high school together, so I know that she is rad.
Teutschler runs the company Sophiestication. Their motto: "We conjure up beautiful apps for your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Mac." Sophiestication apps include Magical Weather, an "animated weather station for your iPad," and Tipulator, which "lets you easily calculate restaurant tips and split the bill on your iPhone and iPod touch."
Allen co-founded Mightyverse, a site where speakers from all over can upload videos of themselves speaking their native languages "to inspire and teach people to expand what they can say in another language." In an interview last year, Allen talked about struggling to find female role models until she read a book about a lady mathematician:
I actually read this book about the 50 Nobel prize winners in math and science who are women. And I read an essay about Emmy Noether, who is a German mathematician who was actually the first woman to be paid to be a professor in Germany. But before that she did math because she loved doing math and she lectured under somebody else's name because she was so thrilled with the opportunity to talk to people about her ideas about math. She helped Einstein lay the mathematical foundation for his theories of relativity. [...]
She was just very excited to work with people who had respect for her so it didn't matter that she didn't get paid for it, that the rest of the world didn't acknowledge it because in her small circle, they all knew that Emmy was the person to go to when you had a math question.
Here's my challenge to Best Buy: put any one of these ladies in your next ad. Then maybe I'll be convinced you give a shit about female customers.