Silicon Valley seeks new hires among young LGBTQ+ activists

The technology sector has, justifiably, come in for a lot of criticism over its lack of diversity. However amid all the negative news, there are positives to be found if you look for them: specifically efforts from tech companies to recruit and retain more LGBTQ+ candidates.

Maven, a non-profit US organisation working to put tech tools in the hands of LGBTQ+ people aged 14 to 19, is one such initiative.

"I saw the tech sector growing and didn't see LGBT voices represented in that, so I figured we need to get youth activists and act now," Maven founder and CEO Monica Arrambide tells Techworld. That was what pushed her to launch Maven in March 2013.

The first tech company to back Maven was GitHub, a platform used by developers, but it has since picked up sponsorship from a wide range of tech giants including IBM, Google, Netflix and Microsoft.

"It comes down to the power of one," she says. "Because of GitHub, all of these other sponsors came too. GitHub went the furthest. They didn't just give us shirts, stickers, computers, free space, network and help building our curriculum, they sponsored us to the tune of $100,000."

Maven runs a series of programmes including summer tech camps, hackathons, workshops and discussions, run by its youth leaders and hosted by tech companies in cities in the US including New York, San Francisco and Austin.

These tech camps are not just of benefit for the young people involved – tech companies learn how to be more inclusive too, says Arrambide.

"Every summer, the tech company hosting says thank you for coming, and this is how we've changed – it might be gender neutral bathrooms, opening up to different gender categories," she adds.

For the youth leaders, Maven has made them feel technology is a sector that is open to them.

"Cyber bullying is a huge issue for young LGBTQ+ people. One of the great things about Maven is it lets them connect with technology in a safe space," says youth leader Humaira Syed.

"Technology actually seems open-minded as a sector to me. It's not like banking which has been around for ages," adds youth leader Daniel Alvarado.

Arrambide gushes over the role GitHub has played in helping Maven to get off the ground.

"GitHub has given support from every level you can imagine," she says. "We have an amazing relationship with them. They help out with many if not all our events, partner with us, and they invest in us. The next layer is their employee involvement, we ask who there can help us and they always say yes."

Youth leaders describe Maven as a project where they feel they can bring their 'whole, authentic self'.

"The negative thought patterns I had of being less than or "low-quality" to the world have vanished. Maven facilitated a collective for youth to come together and I saw my worth by being surrounded by youth like me and also having an instructor that is like me," says Alvarado.

"Before Maven, I saw the tech sector as all white and male dominated. Through Maven I have seen so many different people in the sector, it's been so inspiring," says Syed.

What will be the next steps for the initiative? Firstly, launching a youth council in January, which will allow the youth leaders themselves to take the project forward, Arrambide says. She is also hoping to expand Maven to more cities in the US, and encourage more tech companies to offer LGBTQ+ youth internships.

Having come from a more traditional, non-profit sector role, one thing Arrambide loves is the appetite for risk within tech.

"The tech sector sees success and failure and just says: try it out. Even if you fail, you can still learn from it," she says.

This story, "Silicon Valley seeks new hires among young LGBTQ+ activists" was originally published by

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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