#WHDemoDay and #ADAinitiative — Oh, the Irony



Welcome to Demo Day at the White House! (Megan Smith, the First US Chief Technology Officer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxGrDsuwCFk

“It’s a tradition in the tech community to show off amazing things that people have built. … All Americans do this. All American are capable of this. And it’s a big part of our future, and it’s always been a big part of our past.”

Yesterday was a landmark day in diversity and inclusion.

Yesterday saw the first ever White House Demo Day (#WHDemoDay), for women and minority entrepreneurs and innovators to ‘pitch’ their ideas to President Obama.

Yesterday saw the end of the ADA Initiative, “a feminist organization. We strive to serve the interests and needs of women in open technology and culture who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression, including disabled women, women of color, LBTQ women, and women from around the world.” (Ada Initiative, About Us)

How enormously ironic to see the closing of the one with the opening of the other, and both with such closely related missions. I can only hope that this first White House Demo Day proves to be one of many, and that the effort continues to embrace and support diversity as essential to American creativity and innovation.

White House Demo Day

The White House Demo Day had demonstrations to illustrate the diversity of people contributing to the innovation that helps strengthen the American economy. Most of the companies presenting had at least one woman founder or co-founder. Almost as many of the companies presenting had a founder that is a person of color or who shows ethnic or cultural diversity. The two companies represented by white men were (1) military, and (2) a winner of the XPRIZE. There were a few wonderful presenters from Michigan, including Ann-Marie Sastry of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor talking about her innovations in batteries and power storage. Products presented included new search engines based on cognitive models, medical innovations in cancer / HIV / aging / asthma, parenting tools, strategies for empowering patients, creative ways to repay student loans, several on converting ‘waste’ to profit, and much more. There was even Zoobean, who partner with libraries to recommend books and apps based on children’s preferences.

White House Demo Day

Part of what made this so wonderful (and why I wish I’d heard about it sooner) was the move to encourage parallel events across the country. I wish we’d done this here! Here are some tweets about the high points.

Read about the presenters here. Listen to the pitches here.


President Obama Hosts the First-Ever White House Demo Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKsxHS5vptM

White House Demo Day: https://www.whitehouse.gov/demo-day

Ada Initiative

“When the Ada Initiative was founded in 2011, the environment for women in open technology and culture was extremely hostile. Conference anti-harassment policies were rare outside of certain areas in fandom, and viewed as extremist attempts to muzzle free speech. Pornography in slides was a regular feature at many conferences in these areas, as were physical and sexual assault. Most open tech/culture communities didn’t have an understanding of basic feminist concepts like consent, tone policing, and intersectional oppression.” https://adainitiative.org/2015/08/announcing-the-shutdown-of-the-ada-initiative/

The Ada Initiative began by trying to change the world for women in STEM and tech. They stopped, but not without having made change, and not without leaving a permanent legacy. You’ll see tributes and comments below to testify to this, but you’ll also see links to some of the content they made open source and Creative Commons in order to help perpetuate their work, as well as work from some of their partners who carry on the good message and work. By the way, their open source toolkits are absolutely incredible and well worth downloading.

HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community https://adainitiative.org/2014/02/howto-design-a-code-of-conduct-for-your-community/
Code of conduct evaluations http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_conduct_evaluations

Announcing the ADA Camp Toolkit: https://adainitiative.org/2015/07/add-a-little-bit-of-adacamp-to-your-event-announcing-the-adacamp-toolkit/

ADACamp Toolkit: https://adacamp.org/
– Inclusive event catering: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/inclusive-event-catering/
– Providing conference childcare: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/childcare/
– Quiet room: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/quiet-room/
– Supporting d/Deaf and hard of hearing people at an unconference: https://adacamp.org/adacamp-toolkit/supporting-deaf-people/

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