"I love the spirit and joy and creativity in tech,” says Hayley Leibson, a 2015 CU Boulder alumna and founder of a blog dedicated to empowering women to pursue technology-related careers. Just two-and-a-half years after graduating from CU—and completing her Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) minor—and only 10 months after launching her website, Leibson has already made the blog, Lady in Tech, her day job, accumulating a combined following of 25,000 and winning widespread recognition for her work.
Leibson was recently interviewed for a radio show, “Breaking Silicon Valley's Glass Ceiling,” broadcast by the BBC World Service. She was also interviewed for a BBC series “100 Women,” that examines the role of women in contemporary society from multiple angles. Other recognition includes The Institute of Code’s “Women in Tech” award, and she was a semifinalist for the "We Rise” award from The Hivery, a women's coworking space in the Bay Area. She recently extended her reach, becoming a Forbes contributor.
Lady In Tech
Leibson is clear about her mission: "I want to inspire, motivate and move millennial women to enter the tech industry,” she says.
Quoting Marian Wright Edelman, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” Leibson says she writes about women who have developed careers in the technology sector to inspire others to do the same. Her profiles tend to focus on entry and mid-level professionals because, she says, “[they] are more relatable than the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world.” (Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook.)
She also partners with technology conferences, which she attends and writes about, giving early career professionals who can’t afford large conference price tags access to some of the key takeaways.
She says she built her following primarily using Twitter and Facebook.
“I was able to grow an audience for this kind of content because nothing like it existed,” says Leibson. “I knew I was on the right path when I attended tech events and people would say, ‘I heard about what you’re doing,’ or ‘I read about you.’ Or when I got messages from women saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t think I could be an IOS developer until I read the article you wrote, and then I took the classes you recommended and got my dream job.’”
The road to inclusion advocacy
Leibson’s story began in her Northern California hometown, where she says women were not encouraged to become engineers or pursue STEM careers. At CU Boulder she first pursued environmental journalism and then communications. She says one of her best college decisions was to take TAM classes at the ATLAS Institute.
“I believe TAM was the most valuable part of my CU Boulder education... Joel Swanson’s Fundamentals of Digital Design class taught me the technical skills necessary to become a critically thoughtful and articulate designer. It wasn’t just about designing projects, but about designing everything I do.”
She also traces her sense of purpose to her experience in the program. “Through TAM, I discovered the best way to make a positive impact on the world is through technology, and I have carried this belief forward ever since,” says Leibson. “We must work toward creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for whom they build it.”
After graduating early with honors in 2015, Leibson spent time in London pursuing a culinary arts program and learning about London’s startup ecosystem, but she was disappointed when she couldn't find a community supporting aspiring female founders.
Upon returning to the U.S., Leibson moved to San Francisco, launching Lady in Tech in April, 2017. Surrounded by a community of women eager to enter tech fields, the site took off.
In addition to writing, Leibson consults. She's worked with the makers of the social media app Hey! VINA, which connects platonic female friends, as well as Omidyar Network, Uber, Prezi and TechCrunch. She's also actively supports communities for TEDxSanFrancisco, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and Women in Product, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in product management.
“We need all perspectives and viewpoints represented as we build the future,” Leibson says. “Utilizing the talent that exists means we’re assembling smarter, more innovative teams.
“My best advice for aspiring female technologists: aim to make the most impact you can on the world.”