Hello friends! Today I am “live blogging” from #LATISM16 which means this post is being written during (in this case) a panel discussion and posted immediately after. The purpose of live blogging is that the information is made available  to you as fast as possible. All of the panels at #LATISM16 are being covered on various social media platforms (Facebook live, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and blogs) just looks for the hashtag #LATISM16

Here we go! Much of the content is paraphrased in my own words.



Make School, Latinitas and Que Means What


Moderator| Melanie Mendez Gonzales, Owner/Content Creator at QueMeansWhat.com 

Writes on education, Latinos in entertainment, and her Latino culture journey she is also a program manager at STEM to Vine.

Speaker | Laura Donnelly, Founder, COO at Latinitas.com 

Serves 2,000 girls in Austin, TX and 1,000 in El Paso, TX  with focuses in app design, game design coding in a bilingual and bicultural format.

There are 9,000 jobs in tech are coming to Austin but only 1% of the the tech employed populations is Latina. Latinitas is trying to bridge that leaky pipeline.

Speaker | Susan Nesbitt, Head of Business Development at Make School 

Product manager at Yahoo and former Napster and Craigslist employee now works with social good cause that is Make School.

Finding other lesbians in tech was especially a challenge for Susan. Make School has eight classrooms now and wants to have 15 very soon. Make school has a summer academy teaching Swift and App Store  applications with a track also in virtual reality via coding. Product Academy is a college alternative with typically 20-45 students and 20% are Latin@. In the last two years the class has diversified significantly in terms of participants. Companies will look for more diversity if they hire talent that reflects what America looks like. Students become Stack developers and get “scooped” up by companies like Google, sometimes before they even graduate. Make School is a ventured-backed academy that is backed with organizations like the Kapor Center.

Watch Video: The Power of Programming: Building a Better World


Melanie’s son taking it all in and proud of mom!


Melanie: What are the challenges you have had in making your schools diverse and inclusive?

Susan: Susan came from a place where there were a lot of women (i.e. Girls Who Code) so that motivated her to increase the number of women in the tech space wherever she goes. Students have increased from one , to now six female students (out of 45) that participate in their summer program.  “Partnerships (like the one with LATISM) are crucial” for increasing the diversity in the classrooms and eventually the workforce. Make School education is networked all over the world in that way.

Laura: “There is a lot of pressure city-wide in Austin …getting girls to code…But sometimes we need to scale back at Latinitas (to prepare them for this space). Sometimes they do not even have an email address…and these are girls in high school.” Latinitas deconstruct the narrative to make it relevant to the young girls so that they can understand that technology is in their DNA. In tech you have to go in very secure in your identity. Latinitas shows the girls how their ancestors created technology for example. “I’ve seen too many peers that have to deal with things that their colleagues can’t even pronounce their name.”

Melanie: Some people don’t think they even deserve to be creators. There is a systematic repercussion. What can  be done to help change that? To change the basic challenges?

Laura: Dell, Dropbox, Facebook, Google are in Austin so for Latinitas, “we get them on site.” They meet the people so things are humanized.

Susan: We have a speaker series such as leaders in Pixar “and she’s a women and she’s gay.” We demonstrate what they can be. “We also take them on tours like Linked In” to see what an engineer does all day, what their cubicles look like etc. Make School also offers it’s space to support tech events as a way to outreach into the tech community.

Melanie: Are we doing enough with our messaging to the kids to go to college and follow the traditional steps to really make them successful in tech?

Laura: Texas is very suppressive in education. I think there are women doing fantastic things (i.e. Black Girls Code). It’s happening but there is an issue with mainstream. Latinitas for example gets streamed into the Spanish channel when we have a media announcement. So it’s like a social justice movement. We have to do everything we can do to get that spark going for the girls.

Susan: Options and opportunity are the thing. “I think college alternatives” are a solution just like free education and student loan costs are. Education should be open to all people.

Laura: We are a media culture (talk about The Big Bang Theory as example). We have to demonstrate as a culture.

Susan: Porting Silicon Valley to other cities is a solution so that people can learn locally and they can go work there later on or build their own Silicon Valley.

Melanie: To make a point. The reason diversity in tech is important, because of how the consumers look like. What are examples of a challenge that you have learned from where you had to make a shift in your model?

Laura: Sometimes the girls want to present in Spanish, so it’s about creating that space.

Susan: Gender parity and diversity in the classroom as well as ethnic and heritage issues is also key. There are all kinds things that come up in a classroom, for example the female students are collaborative where make students are more competitive so sometimes the women get quieted and it’s not intentional. So there needs to be a change in teaching style for example.

App Example: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lippi/id1142285266?mt=8

Laura: It’s about reshaping the heroes in tech especially women.

Susan: It’s so important to remember that women have 50% of the buying power. So yes, we need to change that ratio. It’s representative of why we need fully diverse teams.

Melanie: Technology is the equalizer.

Thank you!



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