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In Person Events

A Look at PowerToFly’s Final Event of 2018

For us here at PowerToFly, 2019 is in full swing! We already have a slew of live and web events lined up for January not to mention our VIP Program (where VIPs can enjoy weekly virtual lunch & learns with women leaders) and new offerings such as career coaching.

But before we jump too much into the new year, I wanted to take a quick look back at our final event of 2018, an evening of "cocktails and conversations" featuring some of New York's fastest-growing startups.


Hosted at Rise New York on Monday, December 17th, the evening included presentations by women leaders at Better Mortgage, a company using technology to change the way people finance their homes; Blockstack, a new world of apps that let you own your data and maintain your privacy, security and freedom; Chainalysis, their cryptocurrency investigation software helps law enforcement and financial institutions identify and stop bad actors who are using cryptocurrencies for illicit activity such as fraud, extortion, and money laundering; and RapidSOS, whose innovations are modernizing the 9-1-1 system, making it possible for first responders to get to you quicker than ever before.

Hosted by PowerToFly's CoFounder & CEO Milena Berry, speakers for the evening included Michele Martone, Head of QA Engineering at Better Mortgage; Virginia Hickox, DevOps Engineer at Blockstack (who was hired through PowerToFly!); Shilpa Deshpande, Data Science Engineer at Chainalysis; Hannah Curtis, Senior Product Manager at Chainalysis; and Lauren Javaly, Engineer Developer at RapidSOS.

Our attendees had a chance to network with each of our featured companies over wine and small bites at the start and the end of the evening. In between, our women tech leaders dove a bit deeper into their own career journeys, the history of their companies, the tech that they use and what they are looking for in potential team members.

PowerToFly is incredibly grateful to Rise New York for hosting us on what was truly an excellent end to 2018. See you this year!

**************************

Better Mortgage, a direct lender dedicated to providing a fast, transparent, and online mortgage experience backed by superior customer support. From their offices in New York City, they're using technology to change the way people finance their homes, for the better. Since their founding, Better Mortgage has funded $1.8 billion of loans

Blockstack, a new internet for decentralized apps that you access through the Blockstack Browser. With Blockstack, there is a new world of apps that let you own your data and maintain your privacy, security and freedom. Blockstack is a rapidly growing open source community with over 15,584 developers globally. It was co-founded by Ryan Shea and Muneeb Ali in 2013 at Princeton and the core team is distributed across the United States and globally.

Chainalysis, builds trust in blockchains between people, businesses and governments. Their Blockchain Intelligence Platform powers compliance and investigation software for the world's top institutions. Their cryptocurrency investigation software helps law enforcement and financial institutions identify and stop bad actors who are using cryptocurrencies for illicit activity such as fraud, extortion, and money laundering. With an intuitive graphical interface, Chainalysis Reactor enables users to easily conduct in-depth investigations into the source and provenance of cryptocurrency transactions.

RapidSOS, a multi-million dollar technology company developing transformative technology that saves lives. Their emergency technology platform links life-saving data from connected devices to 9-1-1 and first responders. RapidSOS' technology helps predict emergencies before they occur while also providing accurate locations and data to first responders.

A packed house!

PowerToFly CoFounder & CEO Milena Berry.

Shilpa Deshpande, Data Science Engineer at Chainalysis

Michele Martone, Head of QA Engineering at Better Mortgage

Lauren Javaly, Engineer Developer at RapidSOS

Virginia Hickox, DevOps Engineer at Blockstack

Our panel of women tech leaders.

Our panel took questions from the audience.


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Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Told to Be Chill, Not Shrill

The Dated, Everyday Tech Stifling Women's Voices Shows the Importance of Diversity in Tech

"You're not like other girls. You're so...chill."

I've gotten that "compliment" from multiple guys in multiple contexts — and I'm ashamed to admit that until a few years ago, I took it as one.

Occasionally I'd wonder why. After all, anyone who knows me well knows I am the Anti-Chill: a tightly wound stress ball, ready to explode into tears at any given moment.

So what was giving these guys the wrong impression? As it turns out, it was my voice. My cool, unnaturally-deep-for-a-woman, never-shrill voice.

And if I'm honest, I always prided myself on not sounding 'like other girls.' No uptalk or high-pitched squeals of glee from me. I thought I sounded smarter and more serious. Talk about internalized misogyny.

This isn't just me though. There is a societal double bind that forces women to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the right pitch and tone for each situation.

Just consider the advice that Democratic-debate coach Christine Jahnke gave female candidates to avoid being labeled as shrill: "… go slow and low. Very purposefully slow your pace and lower the tone a bit, because that will add meaning or gravitas to whatever it is you're talking about."

In a nutshell: try and sound chill, not shrill.

What I didn't know, until recently, is how this bias against women's natural voices is being reinforced and amplified by century-old technology. (Just one of many examples of how technology designed by and for men ends up hurting women in the long-run.)

Author Tina Tallon explains this little-known fact in her recent New Yorker article, summarized below:

How 20th Century Tech Is Holding 21st Century Women Back

With the rise of commercial broadcast radio in the 1920s, women's voices began getting critiqued. As Tallon explains, station directors asserted that "women sounded 'shrill,' 'nasal,' and 'distorted.'" So when industry standards were set, directors didn't take women's voices into account.

When Congress limited the bandwidth available to each radio station in 1927, station directors set a bandwidth that would provide the minimum amount of information necessary to understand "human" speech.

They used lower voices as their benchmark, so the higher frequency components of women's speech necessary to understand certain consonants were cut, making women's voices less intelligible.

  • Researcher J.C. Steinberg asserted that, "nature has so designed woman's speech that it is always most effective when it is of soft and well-modulated tone." He explained that if a woman raised her voice on air, it would exceed the limitations of the equipment. As Tallon says, "He viewed this as a personal and biological failing on women's part, not a technical one on his."

Why You Should Care

Women have always been told to lower their voices, but this 20th century approach to sound frequencies is still accepted as the standard, literally forcing women to lower their voices if they want to be heard.

  • To this day, many algorithms and speakers distort women's speech by limiting higher frequencies, causing women's voices to lose definition and clarity.

Tallon sums it up well:

"Consequently, women are still receiving the same advice that they were given in the nineteen-twenties: lower the pitch of your voice, and don't show too much emotion. By following that advice, women expose themselves to another set of criticisms, which also have a long history: they lack personality, or they sound 'forced' and 'unnatural.'"


----

So as we continue to grapple with implicit biases against women, from what it means to be "presidential" to who's considered an "innovative leader," let's remember the importance of diversity in tech.

Had a woman been involved in researching/setting the standards for radio frequencies, she might've been able to steer the industry towards a voiceband that would allow men and women to be heard equally well. And perhaps had a more impartial voiceband been established, I'd have heard a more diverse range of female speakers growing up, and internalized fewer biases myself.

That's why we care so much at PowerToFly about making sure cutting-edge companies have diverse teams.

Times were different then, sure, but the fact that Depression Era standards are still impacting how we hear (or don't hear) women's voices is a vital reminder that what we do today impacts our world for centuries to come.

Agree?

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