Women in Tech – It’s a Media Problem

CooperHarrisMaybe it’s good luck; I’m not sure. I’ve only been in the content creation game for a short time and the people I’m meeting are pretty amazing. Cooper Harris is no exception and was exceptionally fun to talk to. She was kind enough to sit down with me between events at the AT&T Developer Summit. I really enjoyed learning a little about her company; getting her thoughts on women in tech; and getting inspired by her excitement with the combination of entertainment and technology.

Entertaining Tech

iGirl: You were sitting on one of the panels and mentioned that you were transitioning from entertainment to tech. What happened that prompted the change?

Cooper: I’ve been acting professionally since I was twelve and really never considered that I would be in tech whatsoever; it never crossed my mind until about this past year. I just found that I was no longer feeling fulfilled by entertainment. I wanted to become an actress to tell compelling stories that were life changing and would help people. I found that I was getting kind of the same roles; the damsel in distress seductress type.

That’s really only one side of what I can do. I wanted to show the side of me that’s a tech CEO and runs things and makes cool apps that help people. That’s when – about a year and a half ago – I had the idea for my startup. Then, about a year ago I made the decision to put everything aside  and dive completely into tech.

Too Many Clicks – Resolved.

iGirl: Tell me a little about the startup.

Cooper: It’s called Klickly. We’re basically a big optimization platform for mobile. Companies are paying a lot of money to tweet and post about their products on Facebook and Instagram. I found that it was very difficult to actually follow through on a mobile purchase from one of these companies. There are just too many clicks. They send you to the website; make you click through the shopping process and it just took much too long to accomplish. Klickly has developed the tech that makes the whole process of purchasing on mobile – from social – much easier for the consumer.

iGirl: So, what got you started with going to hackathons?

Cooper: Getting into tech, I realized there’s this whole world I don’t know anything about – and that it’s really fascinating and it’s creative. People don’t realize just how creative it is. I found that hackathons are a great place to use my story telling talents.

I’ve found that I can be a huge asset  to these teams of magnificently talented developers by helping them tell the story. I get really passionate about whatever we’re creating and I think that tends to put us over the top. I won the last AT&T hackathon in LA and that was really cool. It’s not something most people thought I would do; they were like “why is this actress doing hackathons?”

Women in Tech – It’s a Media Problem

iGirl: I tweeted the prize from Ericsson yesterday for women in tech and received an overwhelming response. There’s a big issue with the lack of women in tech right now; what are your thoughts on that?

Cooper: I go to tech events in LA and I’m the only woman there; or one of three – and the others are recruiters. I’ve honestly run into a couple of situations where I’ll be asked to meet and talk about my company and have found that the guy actually wanted a date. I think if there were more women in tech the perspective would change and this might not happen.

iGirl: What do you think we can do to encourage more women to be in the tech industry?

[Tweet “I think Ericsson has exactly the right idea. You give a prize to women who are willing to make that leap and put themselves out there.  “]

Cooper: I think Ericsson has exactly the right idea. You give a prize to women who are willing to make that leap and put themselves out there. Let’s be real – it’s not something we’re encouraged to do from a young age. Maybe there’s more of that happening now; but when I was growing up you were an actress or singer. Those were the prestigious and valued images of women; pretty, sexy and in front of the camera.

[Tweet “I think it’s so important to show young women that – yes – they can absolutely be…”]

I think it’s so important to show young women that – yes – they can absolutely be a beautiful actress; but they can also do all of these other things. It’s all available – it’s not like someone is stopping us anymore. But when you don’t see something; you don’t know that it’s there or gravitate towards it. When it’s not celebrated you aren’t going to be compelled to do it.

I want to show young women that you can be young and hip and in tech as well.

iGirl: Do you think the education system is part of the problem?

Cooper: To some extent – maybe. But I would say that it’s more a media problem. I think celebrities need to come out and say  – I’m a fan of science. I know that – as I was growing up – I saw boy and girl toys and I was to play with the pink toys. That’s hurtful and problematic. I really want to take the focus off of women playing dress-up – not that it’s bad. I just think it’s important to champion other stuff because it’s way out of balance right now.

Nerds at Sundance

iGirl: You’re doing a hackathon at Sundance of all places. It sounds like a cool combo of entertainment and tech.

Cooper: That’s my main goal – to kind of bridge that gap between entertainment and technology. And, to do it in a smart-cool way that increases the liveliness of both. I’m producing the first ever tech and innovation summit; I’m really excited about that. Literally, the first hackathon at Sundance; with the first Pitchfest with VC panels and female entrepreneur panels.

My end goal is to blend the smartest minds in the nation in tech with the best story tellers of entertainment. Because that’s what I’m doing in a microcosm in my life. I feel like I’ve been trained as a good storyteller and I want to surround myself and become a tech innovator.

I think when we blend those two together we have the best of both worlds and we can achieve really cool things.

In Closing

I really like the concept of combining storytelling with technology. Heck, the gaming industry has been doing that for a very long time. It’s obvious that with her passion, drive, and perspective that Cooper will make some significant inroads in the tech community. I’m looking forward to seeing how she furthers her passion of combining the two words of techertainment.

I will close by mentioning the research I did – after the show – on women in tech. There are a ton of resources that are trying to fit this need. However, the media issue that Cooper talked about is definitely a problem. I think that when we start portraying more women in tech in our cultures media; only then will the balance shift properly.