Life in Code: Why this entrepreneur is telling the stories of women in tech

lifeincode12Seattle entrepreneur Paul Watts was tired of just thinking and talking about the lack of women in the tech world, so now, he’s doing something about it.

“I got involved with the LadyCoders group last year, but I’m in the startup world — I wanted to start something, right?” Watts said.

Thus the creation of Life in Code, a web video series telling the stories of women and minorities becoming computer geeks. Watts, the co-founder and CEO at Gatherball who also developed the popular OneBusAway app for Android, has teamed up with Victoria Ramon of Seattle-based video production company Turtle Canyon Media.

The pair just launched a Kickstarter for the project, which plans to run 12 five-minute episodes in its first season with interviews from six different women that have stories to prove that women can succeed in a male-dominated workforce.

The first episode will feature Kate Matsudaira, who is also nominated for our GeekWire Awards Geek of the Year.

“I wanted to focus on some of the personal stories that don’t get told often in our business-first world,” Watts said.

Paul Watts.

Paul Watts.

The funding goal is set at $15,000 because Watts and Ramon want high-production value for the videos, which will be licensed as Creative Commons and shareable to “where ever these stories need to be told,” as Watts puts it.

“Much of the funds will go for the equipment and time needed to ensure that quality: light and sound equipment rental, and editing time,” Watts said.

Right now, it’s just Watts and Ramon behind the project, but part of the goal of the Kickstarter is to get more people involved behind Life in Code. They want to build a community of people sharing stories to show how many of them are out there.

“I do believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to increase diversity in tech,” Watts said. “It’s not just one gender’s responsibility to create a more inclusive culture — it’s up to all of us.”

This does seem like a big project for someone who’s running his own company, but it’s something Watts cares deeply about.

“One of the things I learned with my involvement with OneBusAway is that you actually can make a big impact in your spare time with a little elbow grease,” he said. “So I do have time, and I can make time because it’s something that important to me.”

While Seattle ranks second in the nation for women entrepreneurs, the gender wage gap in the Emerald City is another story. A new study out earlier this month showed Seattle having the largest wage gap between men and women among the 50 major cities in the country.

The tech and startup industry is certainly dominated by men. However, there are definitely some notable female entrepreneurs in the Seattle area: Mary Jesse at Ivy, Liz Pearce at LiquidPlanner, Jane Park at Julep and Christina Lomasney at Modumetal, just to name a few.

Participants at the Startup Weekend Women's Edition. Photo: Kyle Kesterson

Participants at the Startup Weekend Women’s Edition. Photo: Kyle Kesterson

The picture to the right is from Startup Weekend Women’s Edition, an event hosted last summer by Julie Sandler of Madrona Venture Group and Shauna Causey of Decide.com. It marked the first time that a female-oriented hackathon was held in Seattle. Of the 90 participants, 75 percent were women.

Most of the women said that they were inspired by the event, saying that they would participate at future Startup Weekends. Adriana Moscatelli, a user experience designer who led the gaming upstart Pink Matrix Labs, said she made some fantastic connections during the event.

“In our daily work, we spend all day around guys,” said Moscatelli. “It was such a unique opportunity to spend time around so many smart, engaging and geeky women.”

GeekWire columnist Monica Guzman wondered if it was discriminatory to host an event that limits the participation of one group in favor of another.

“Is this a healthy event for our startup climate, or a flawed one?” Guzman asked.

You can check out Guzman’s column and all the interesting reader comments here.

Previously on GeekWireWomen in tech: Is Startup Weekend Women’s Edition fantastic or flawed?

  • http://twitter.com/cindybetty Cindy Engstrom

    yay Paul Watts!!! I cannot wait to watch.

  • Hakon Verespej

    Holy crap, so excited to see this! Really awesome to see someone taking action instead of just sitting around theorizing about the issues. Way to go!

    Also couldn’t have chosen a better person to do the first episode on. Kate is amazing and someone I’ve looked up to for a long time.

    BTW, I was on Adriana’s team at the Startup Weekend Women’s Edition and it was a really great experience to be part of her team and experience what it’s like to be in the minority. I would absolutely like to see it happen again.