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PATHS Hosts Its Second Live Panel & Networking Event

Updated: Mar 11

On Tuesday, September 26th, LGBT Tech’s PATHS hosted its second in-person panel discussion and networking event, LGBTQ+ in STEAM: Building Space and Amplifying Voices. The event held two panels “Building Space,” which spotlighted different organizations and their work uplifting the LGBTQ+ community in STEAM, and “Amplifying Voices,” in which LGBTQ+ professionals discussed their personal experiences in STEAM. The event welcomed students, as well as industry professionals, to the AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment & Policy in Washington, DC.

To kick off the event, Kristen Kelley, Director of Programs at LGBT Tech announced the launch of Season 4 of PATHS with the first look at the Season 4 Trailer. PATHS Season 4 features interviews with professionals from across LGBTQ+ community and across STEAM fields, including interviews with individuals working in UX design, accessibility, site reliability, filmmaking, environmental science, VR, and more; ranging from graduate fellows to up and coming artists.

Kristen Kelley led the first panel “Building Space.” She was accompanied by three organization leaders working to create positive spaces for LGBTQ+ in STEAM. During this panel there was participation from Alma Maria Rinasz from Latinas in Cyber, E.C. Pizarro III from TransTech Social, and LGBT Tech’s very own Chris Wood.

“Latinas in Cyber is focusing on creating a viable career path for women in a lucrative industry.” panelist Alma Rinasz said. Alma is a Co-Founder of Latinas in Cyber and Cybersecurity Educator. “The financial aspect is so significant because it is a lack of equity, it’s a lack of being able to access the opportunities. Given a situation where it is food on the table, medicine for your family or for yourself, you are going to pick your survival.”

E.C. Pizzarro III, who is the Executive Director of TransTech Social, touched on the barriers that LGBTQ+ individuals face trying to get into tech, “You can’t think about the future when you are thinking about the moment.” E.C. continued to explain the need of creating space for the trans community in tech, “The average salary for trans people is $17,000-$20,000 a year, which is well below the poverty rate… When we think of an entry-level job in tech, we are literally changing trans people’s lives, where they can go from a state of survival to thriving. ”

“So many executives and HR managers

are saying ‘We need to solve the problem of diversity in tech’ and sitting there and pulling that problem apart, looking at it and talking with fellow community members, [we recognize] that this is a systemic problem.” Chris Wood, Executive Director of LGBT Tech, emphasizes the importance of these organizations and programs like PATHS. “If LGBTQ+ individuals are not seeing themselves in these fields, if they are not seeing an opportunity to get into them, then they are not going to go into them.”

PATHS grant recipient and mentee Kirschell Lewis and LGBT Tech’s Kristen Kelley led the second panel “Amplifying Voices.” They were accompanied by four professionals discussing their experiences as part of the LGBTQ+ community in STEAM spaces. During this panel there was participation from Alma Maria Rinasz, E.C. Pizarro III, Elisabeth Hansen and Nikita Washington

“My biggest piece of advice would be to make sure that you don’t discredit your prior skills… They can take you to the next level. You just have to know how to leverage them” Nikita Washington, Sr. UX Designer and Founder. She also stated that there is room for growth in terms of what constitutes being a diverse workplace, “We need to see more of us, not just as employees but in middle management, in the C-Suite.”

Adding onto the conversation, Elisabeth Hansen a Product and Learning Designer gave her advice on transitioning careers, “I was 10 years into my career and I made the shift [into tech]. The first thing I would say is definitely find community. Find people that will be there to support you. Find mentorship… having that type of guidance and support is really important. And, do your research on where you might learn about this new space you are moving into, because there are a lot of different options but not all are created equal.”

As the panel wrapped up, Kristen Kelley announced PATHS’ next mentorship cohort that is set to start in January of 2024. They also announced LGBT Tech’s partnership with Pluralsight to distribute 200 licenses to our mentorship network, to further their educational opportunities. She also shared that PowerOn’s Individual Tech Grant is now accepting rolling applications for LGBTQ+ individuals needing a cell phone, tablet or laptop.

Watch the full panel below:

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