2013 NCWIT Summit - Flashtalk, "Sit With Me" by Avis Yates Rivers

August 14, 2013

Jeffrey Forbes:  We're very lucky to have Avis Yates Rivers, who's the founder of Technology Concepts Incorporated, as well as being an NCWIT board member. She's going to tell us a little something about these iconic chairs behind us and the "Sit With Me" campaign.

Avis Yates Rivers:  Great, I get to go after Seth. I thought y'all loved me, I thought y'all loved me. Here's the red chair. I'm Avis Yates Rivers and I am the national "Sit With Me" spokesperson. It's my pleasure to be with you today to tell you a little bit about what the Red Chair's been doing, where it's been for the last year.

Here's the chair's life, a year in review. Now some of you may be new to the family, and so you may not know that much about it. What is the "Sit With Me" thing? And why the Red Chair?

This was a campaign that was created to broaden the conversation, right, get more people talking about the scarcity of women in IT. We launched this first in our own community, the five alliances that make up NCWIT. So I'll share with you a couple of the stories and photos of what the Chair has been doing within these alliances.

We'll start with the Academic Alliance. You see Oregon State University here. We've got the men's basketball team with their coach who is Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson.

We've got their mascot Benny and the pep band and the president of Oregon State asking you to sit with him. Then we've got Gael, this civil engineering student who is a gymnast, balancing not only herself, but a heavy red chair on that balance beam. I don't know, it must be youth, because I don't know how she does that.

We continue to another couple of Academic Alliance members, Wheaton College and Purdue University. The Academic Alliance has been astronomical, and very very impressive with all that they have been doing.

Further, we have University of Pennsylvania students there, and Carnegie Mellon students and faculty, everybody loves to sit in the red chair. What we want you to do is just tell us how you're going to change the world for technical women. There's Seth again.

We went to the 60 conference down in Florida, well Seth is in Florida, and we've got him. He's a superstar, he's a rock star. We have Ann standing in the red chair.

Then, this is the K‑12 Alliance of course. We did some partnering with the girl scouts. They're both young, and it's never too young to get them started. That's Violet Apple who runs the girl scouts of eastern Massachusetts, we partnered with her at the Massachusetts conference for women.

Going to the Entrepreneurial Alliance, Andreessen Horowitz hosted the Symons Innovator awards, and Caterina Fake who is the founder of Flickr was the honoree. Heather Champ accepted it in her honor. She was one of the first Flickr employees.

SpotXchange has been spot on with all of the activities that they've been involved in. We thank you SpotXchange for your energy and your excitement.

Then we are going to the AGA. I was happy to host a conference, or a panel, at the NPower event in New York City. We've got some senior technical women who all sat in the red chair, and told us how they're going to continue to empower technical women within their corporations.

What can I say about Microsoft? They have hosted almost 150 events, Dalene King tells me.

How about that chair sitting in front of the Berlin Wall? How cool is that? That's a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Our very own board member Nancy Phillips, the CEO of ViaWest, hosted an aspirations event with winners from Texas in her huge data center. Look how it dwarfs the chair. This is a big chair. That's a big data center.

Then of course Facebook‑ers, they had to get involved, lots of graffiti walls and folks sitting in the red chair. What? Is that their COO Sheryl Sandberg leaning in? I think so. That's her, so thank you.

The CEO of Broke‑Aid reminds us that we still don't have enough women in IT, so what are you going to do about it? Bloomberg, they partnered with three universities, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and University of Pennsylvania, and had some events at all of those.

Rackspace had a little too much fun down at South by Southwest. I think so.

We had another financial services event in New York City that I was able to moderate a panel of senior technical women, hosted by Credit Suisse, Citi and Deloitte.

Celebrities get the idea. That's my good friend Mikki Taylor the editor‑at‑Large of "Essence Magazine," who joined me in Massachusetts for that conference. No, that's not a miniature chair, that's Shaq just sitting in.

I was with him a couple of weeks ago. That dude is huge.

Looking forward, we start them young, we continue the conversation, and we are looking at a bright future.

You're probably asking, "What can I do"? and I'm glad you asked. You can go to Sitwithme.org for ideas, photos, and stories of how this has been used and how you can use it yourself. You can buy your own red chair. You can buy other "Sit With Me" swag. You can contact me if you need a speaker at one of your events, and please follow me @SitWithAvis.

Thank you very much.

[applause]



 

Transcription by CastingWords