- By: Steve Williams
- April 23, 2016
Edith Windsor took on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and won. Now, she’s fronting a campaign to help more queer-identifying women beat the odds and pursue tech careers.
Those familiar with LGBT rights will no doubt recognize Windsor as the lead plaintiff in Windsor v. United States, the Supreme Court case that granted same-gender couples the same federal marriage benefits as heterosexual couples.
Now, Windsor has a new cause.
There’s a severe lack of women in high profile science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs, despite the fact that women perform just as well as men and are equally qualified. And with additional factors, like sexual orientation and race, the barriers to breaking into the tech world can be significant.
Windsor partnered with the group Lesbians Who Tech to help change things. Lesbians Who Tech, founded by entrepreneur Leanne Pittsford, brings together queer women and allies in tech to forge a community and build visibility and opportunities for other women.
But what’s the connection with Edith Windsor? Well, Windsor once worked at IBM as a leading software engineer. She’s a self-described “woman who techs.”
Now, with the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship Fund, the partnership hopes to raise $100k through a crowdfunding campaign. The goal is to send 11 to 15 lesbian or queer-identifying women — or more depending on how much they can raise — to the computer coding school or bootcamp of their choice.
Coding training is expensive. It usually costs at least $18K for entry level education. The fund will cover a minimum of 50 percent of each selected person’s initial tuition. In addition to that opportunity, Lesbians Who Tech pledges to offer life-long support through its network of mentors.
The initiative’s aim is to provide lesbian and queer-identifying women with the education they need to access tech and IT jobs. Hopefully, coding projects created by queer women will provide solutions for other overlooked women due to the over-representation of men in the profession.
The scholarship fund will be ongoing so that year after year, more women will be able to received coding training. And, perhaps, one day those same scholarship recipients can contribute to the fund.
In fact, Lesbians Who Tech already sent a handful of lesbian and queer-identifying women to coding school last year.
Here’s a video that discusses the overall aim of this scholarship program:
This fund could be particularly meaningful for queer women of color who — facing multiple barriers relating to their gender, sexuality and race — find they are often locked out of STEM professions.
Vanessa Newman of Lesbians Who Tech told the Huffington Post: “Imagine what apps and software would look like if they were made by women, queer women, women of color. Imagine how integrating that kind of inclusivity into [tech] would create a more inclusive, accessible society and tech industry for all of us. That’s why being able to fund and provide this type of opportunity for queer women to attend coding school is so important, if not vital. We literally have the power to change the face of tech, if we can lift each other up, over the privileges and barriers to entry that come with learning the essential skills.”
Edith Windsor History: Demolishing a Key Part of DOMA at the Supreme Court
Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer had a love affair that “just kept on and on.” As all things must, though, there did come an end. In 2009 Spyer died of complications related to a heart problem.
At the time, only a handful of states had recognized marriage equality, but Windsor and Spyer had entered into a domestic partnership in New York in 1993. In 2007 the couple traveled to Canada to enter into a marriage. That marriage was recognized in their state of New York as of 2008.
Even so, after Spyer’s death, Windsor was faced with high estate taxes because federal law treated her as if she was a legal stranger to Spyer. Windsor was prevented from accessing spousal benefits.
Windsor decided to fight that injustice. In 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3 was unlawful and placed unconstitutional burdens on Windsor, as well as other people in same-gender marriages.
This ruling opened up nearly all the federal benefits and responsibilities relating to marriage for same-gender couples. It also provided the groundwork for the 2015 Obergefell ruling that ultimately legalized marriage equality across the United Sates.
With this latest move, Edith Windsor shows she is as much a leader as ever. Together with Lesbians Who Tech, Windsor strives to help women become the innovation leaders they have dreamed of being.