WatchHerWork CEO Hamilton: “We Are All Ready for Tech to Grow Up”
A series of highly publicized events in 2017—from the Equifax data breach to the exposure of rampant sexual harassment in parts of the tech industry—has prompted some to question the utopian promise of innovation, especially when it comes to cybersecurity and tech culture.
In a bid to put things in perspective at year’s end, Xconomy reached out to Denise Hamilton, founder of WatchHerWork, a website that features women offering testimonials of their experiences navigating a variety of workplace issues. Hamilton founded the site as a way to help women expand their network by finding mentors they would not otherwise meet. Boosting women’s voices in the workplace—and preventing harassment from silencing them—is the theme of the past year where #metoo became a global phenomenon. Here’s an edited transcript of our exchange:
Xconomy: Do you think 2017 was a turning point in public attitudes toward technology and the tech industry?
Denise Hamilton: I think people became far more sensitive to the power of technology to influence the fundamentals of our society. Social media, cyber hacking, and the realization of their impact on the election woke many people up to the potential of technology to do great harm. We just used to walk around in awe of these tech creations. Now, tech leaders are being held accountable for unintended consequences. It’s a great power that can’t be handled like a bunch of kids who have found their Dad’s gun.
X: If attitudes toward tech have changed for the worse, what were the events that brought about these attitude changes, or solidified them?
DH: I think we are tired of the bro culture: sexist, arrogant, immature leaders that are concerned about maximum profits at the expense of people (and even our democracy). We are all ready for tech to grow up. Look at the troubles Uber has gone through this year and the customer reactions. We are ready to hold beloved companies accountable. That’s a big shift. We are ready for diversity. We are ready for healthy ecosystems that are inclusive and responsive. We can do better.
As a response, we have seen so many more women and people of color throw their hat in the startup ring. It’s an exciting shift.
X: Has the public perception of tech improved in some ways? If so, how and why?
DH: Tech has become life. I personally use 15 apps EVERY DAY. That’s huge. People have become so dependent on tech as a way to navigate their lives. I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.
X: Have your personal patterns of technology usage changed as a result of something that happened in 2017, or in recent years? If so, how?
DH: I’ve become more careful about my privacy. I am way more vigilant about checking my statements. We can’t rely on banks, credit monitoring services, or anyone else to keep track of our accounts. Our trust in these systems was tested this year in so many different ways. We need to check the fine print and stay on top of the issues we care about.
X: Does the change in public attitudes show up in ways that could materially affect the tech industry? If so, how?
DH: We are starting to see more diversity at all levels of the tech ecosystem: More diverse founders, but also more diverse investors and incubators. People tend to solve their own problems, so I’m excited to see different thought processes enter the tech ecosystem. I think we will see some fresh innovation in the years to come.
[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts sharing thoughts from technology leaders about 2017 trends and 2018 forecasts.]