South by Southwest, the major technology, film and music festival that annually descends on Austin, Texas is once again upon us. From March 7-16, thinkers, creators, musicians, entrepreneurs, and filmmakers will occupy business centers, flood bars and restaurants, and host panels on the latest innovation in the digital space. While Chelsea Clinton’s (keynote address) on March 11 is one major event to watch, there are plenty of other inspiring women speaking across industries including public service, health care, education, and tech. Here are 8 speakers and 10 panels to seek out during the inspiring swirl of creative chaos.
Reshma Saujani, Founder, Girls Who Code
In 2012, Saujani founded Girls Who Code, a national non-profit aiming to close the gender gap in computer science and mold the next generation of female leaders in technology. The program has launched in five cities (New York, Detroit, San Francisco, San Jose and Davis, Calif.) with more cities to be announced next year. Saujani left her career as an attorney to become the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress. She’s served as the deputy public advocate of New York City and most recently ran for public advocate last fall.
"The world is changing faster and faster and tech is getting better and smarter, but how are we leveraging that innovation to actually uplift communities? To me, a big part of it is who is actually building the products we consume, and that's why I created Girls Who Code,” she said. “When 88% of girls say they want to change the world but make up just 12% of computer science majors, we're leaving a ton of potential on the table."
”Private Tech for Public Good:” Monday, March 10, 11 a.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 5ABC, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Catherine Hoke, Founder and CEO of Defy Ventures
Hoke was first inspired to help former criminals after visiting several Texas prisons, where she discovered many of the inmates exhibited the same qualities she looked for in good entrepreneurs during her career in venture capital and private equity. In 2004, she founded the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a Texas-focused rehabilitation non-profit teaching men business classes and how to act professionally. Hoke went on to launch Defy Ventures in 2010, a yearlong M.B.A.-style program designed to help former inmates become entrepreneurs. Students focus on creating a business plan while managing finance, accounting and marketing classes, and attend workshops on public speaking and behavior.
Hoke will join Jose Vasquez, a Defy graduate, as well as Alexa Clay, culture hacker and author of the forthcoming book The Misfit Economy. “In this panel, we’re looking outside of Silicon Valley to innovators on the fringe—pirates, gangsters, hermits and occupiers—and asking what they can teach us about innovation,” Clay said.
“Outlaw Innovation:” Monday, March 10, 5p.m.; Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon G, 500 E. 4th St.
Rosario Dawson, Actress and Chairwoman of Vote Latino
From the big screen to the stage, the actress is harnessing her star power to promote activism as the co-founder of Voto Latino, a political organization focused on mobilizing Latino millennials through voter outreach, supporting immigration reform, and creating social change by empowering the Latino community. Dawson was recently honored by California Governor Jerry Brown with the Latino Spirit Award and serves as a board member of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women.
Dawson will sit down with MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner to talk about leveraging new ways to engage the youth in social change.
”Star Power: Innovative Ways to Engage Millennials:” Friday, March 7, 12:30 p.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 6AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Amy Cuddy, Associate Prof. at Harvard Business School
Get a crash course in power posing. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has made a name for herself through her extensive research in examining how people perceive and influence each other based on nonverbal behavior and body language. The way we move can impact how powerful we feel, our inclination to take risks, or even whether or not we get hired. She’s an associate professor of Business Administration in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit at Harvard Business School, a TEDGlobal 2012 speaker and was recognized as a TIME magazine “Game Changer” in 2012.
Cuddy plans to discuss how expressing power through “power posing”—think Wonder Woman stances—can be useful in high-pressure situations, as well as leadership training, coaching and anti-bullying interventions.
”Make Yourself Big: How the Body Shapes the Mind” Friday, March 7, 3:30 p.m.; Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon H, 500 E. 4th St.
Katrin MacMillan, Founder and Director of Projects For All
MacMillan’s human rights work extends across the world to places like South Africa, Nigeria, DRC and Australia. She’s worked as a development consultant for the World Bank, the International Centre for Energy Environment and Development and USAID. She’s currently focusing on the initiative Project Hello World, a child-leg digital education and Internet connectivity program that partners with communities. The campaign’s aim is to give Internet access to the more than 134 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have never attended school, while helping communities put their towns and villages on the world map.
MacMillan will focus on Project Hello World, which she said “is about self-determination, people lifting themselves out of poverty with education, business, community journalism and problem solving.”
”Digitally Democratizing Education:" Friday, March 7, 12:30 p.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 10AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Laura Lee, Director Head of Entertainment East Partnerships at YouTube
She’s a media maven: Lee supervises more than 150 television, film and new media partnerships including Vice, NBCUniversal, Discovery Networks and Sony Pictures among other major brands. Since 2007, she’s managed relations with broadcasters, cable networks, film studios, digital media and original programmers on the East Coast and in Canada—and is the highest-ranking Asian American female at YouTube. Her resume includes a stint as an investment banker before delving into the production world, where she produced an original series for VH1 and served as the vice president of business development and operations at MTV.
Lee is one of four digital media executives who will talk about their unlikely career paths and how they “found their callings through a mixture of grit and serendipity,” said YouTube spokeswoman Zayna Aston.
”What’s the New ‘Having It All?:”Friday, March 7, 5 p.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Yael Cohen, Founder of letsFcancer
“LetsFCancer,” says Yael Cohen. She started her cancer education program four years ago after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The South-African born, Vancouver-raised founder wanted to change the way the next generation approaches the “C” word by communicating the power of early detection and prevention to both young people and their parents. In 2010, Cohen spoke at TEDx and the Clinton Global Initiative, and was the only Canadian speaker at the White House Next Generation Leadership Conference.
“I think the cancer space is broken. By using tech, humor and humans we’ve managed to challenge the status quo and create a truly different cancer movement,” Cohen said on the SXSW site.
”Fuck Cancer’s Yael Cohen Challenges the Status Quo:”
Friday, March 7, 5 p.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 6AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Maz Kessler, Founder and Creative Director of Catapult Systems
Kessler is sticking up for girls and women through Catapult Systems, a crowdfunding platform designed to help raise money for women around the world. Kessler points out that only 6 percent of funding for charity organizations is directed toward women-related causes, which is why she’s closing the gap for women’s rights through the year-old platform. The former songwriter/producer worked in the tech sector for 10 years before co-founding the HIV/AIDS foundation Keep a Child Alive and serving as creative director to the Advocacy International. Since 2007, she’s worked with Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization for women’s rights.
Kessler will join Catapult’s Tyler LePard to discuss approaching gender inequality in innovative ways and the results they’ve achieved within the platform’s first year.
”Crowdfunding Real Change for Girls:”Tuesday, March 11, 11 a.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 6AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Plus: 10 Must-See Panels
Joan vs. Don: Female Leadership in Digital Agencies
Yes, that’s a Mad Men reference. Explore gender roles at digital agencies and whether the collaboration at these companies makes it easier or more difficult for female leadership.
Monday, March 10, 11 a.m.; Courtyard Marriott Brazos, 300 E. 4th St.
Four Tech Companies Changing the Face of Tech
Meet three women who founded tech companies in health care, education and software that are gaining praise and funding—more than $4 million!—in the male-dominated backdrop of Silicon Valley. Saturday, March 8, 9:30 a.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 6AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Fearlessly Funny: The Woman Changing Digital Humor
Four panelists including Jane Pratt, editor-in-chief of xoJane, and comedian Kristina Wong take on how social media and the digital space empower humor.
Saturday, March 8, 5 p.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABCD, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
The Ongoing Issue of Funding Women Entrepreneurs
Female-led startups have undoubtedly made strides over the past decade, but these panelists will discuss the barriers women still face in the tech sector.
Saturday, March 8, 11 a.m.; Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon G, 500 E. 4th St.
Pay it Forward to Women in Biz & Tech
Women from Dell, Xo Group, IEEE and Women Innovate Mobile talk about innovation and contributions to the business world—and how women can contribute to each other’s success. Saturday, March 8, 11 a.m.; Driskill Hotel Citadel, 604 Brazos St.
Meet two female entrepreneurs focused on women in Asia, where they’ve built startups fostering innovation and talent among women in business and technology.
Saturday, March 8, 3:30 p.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 5ABC, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Hacking Princess Culture: Girls, Games & Science
Women from PBS, Goldieblox, and 9ate7 Productions discuss how we can encourage more female engineers and programmers by changing the way the world thinks about role models for younger girls. Sunday, March 9, 12:30 p.m.; Loing Center, Dell Hall, 701 Riverside Dr.
*Free and open to the public
Feminism 2.0: Technology & Women’s Empowerment
This panel will tackle the evolution of modern feminism and how digital innovation is providing more opportunity for women and girls worldwide.
Monday, March 10, 9:30 a.m.; Austin Convention Center, Room 10AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Hear from successful female entrepreneurs, including Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss and Take the Interview CEO Danielle Weinblatt, about the challenges of early-stage tech startups.
Monday, March 10, 9:30 a.m.; Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon D, 500 E. 4th St.
Women in Startups: Mentoring & Networking
DreamIt Ventures hosts this networking event to give women a one-on-one career council from female tech leaders and professionals.
Monday, March 10, 12:30 p.m.; Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon D, 500 E. 4th St.