If you think Wonder Woman looks like a DC Comic Book superhero or Gal Gadot in the recent 2017 Hollywood blockbuster, think again.
Lisa Mae Brunson is the real deal and she’s reshaping what it means to champion people in the tech industry.
As the 2014 founder of Wonder Women Tech and Hacks 4 Humanity, Lisa Mae has made it her mission to fight for inclusivity and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). To do this, she’s set her sights on driving systemic change. More precisely, the kind of change that empowers women, girls, people of color, LGBTQ, underrepresented and diverse communities.
Lisa Mae’s mantra is threefold: innovate, empower and ignite. The words blaze across her Wonder Women Website like a giant cape, crusading into action with an impressive array of conferences and programs. Up and coming conferences in Long Beach California and Manaus, Brazil are just a few of the locations for impactful discussions and global change.
WomanScape had a chance to catch up with Lisa Mae – 2019 Create and Cultivate awardee – to ask about her work, the Wonder Women Podcast, and future goals. Considered one of the top 100 forward-thinking women taking the world by storm, journalist Alexandria Meinecke (AM) shares this interview with Lisa Mae (LMB):
AM: First of all, let me say how excited I am to be featuring you for WomanScape’s Women in Tech month. You have made some really interesting strides, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the tech industry. I was surprised to learn you didn’t get your start in tech and worked for nearly ten years in marketing and media. What inspired you to shift gears and create the Wonder Women Tech Show Podcast?
LMB: Creating a Podcast out of the Wonder Women Tech ecosystem was something I felt would be a vital extension of the work we are doing to highlight, celebrate and educate women and underrepresented communities in STEAM industries. As a woman of color, I haven’t seen as much media and platforms where we are leading the charge. I wanted to bring the magic that we create inside of our conferences and programs to the airwaves and provide a space where women and people who have felt stuck in the background are celebrated, heard, and encouraged.
The Podcast world is dominated by male voices and this is an exciting time for wonder women of the world to share stories of success, vulnerability, courage, and persistence. I want to bring something raw and human to the table to inspire other women and encourage underrepresented communities to go after their dreams.
AM: Well I’d say you’re definitely on the right track. It’s been almost six years since you founded Wonder Women Tech (WWT). What growth have you seen for women in the tech industry?
LMB: I was recently in the United Kingdom where I ran into a male executive from Washington D.C. who has been in tech for the last 30 years. He said that I (and WWT), are path-makers and he was thrilled to finally see the industry shift for women. We are having more conversations about diversity and inclusion. We are seeing more conferences and events focused on exposing women to the industry and creating job opportunities. Fortune 500 companies are allocating dollars, albeit not enough, to support women-in-tech initiatives. There is a definite shift occurring.
This is our time. However, building a conference dedicated to the advancement of women and inclusion has revealed some disturbing truths. It is still very much a “man’s world” and we have to be incredibly persistent. Collaboration is necessary and will make us stronger. We have to raise our voices louder, celebrate each other’s and our own accomplishments, and be ever-resilient to weather the storms that will surely blow our way. While I see women interested in entering tech fields, but the question is—are they going to stay? What are companies doing to retain these women? That’s the work I am interested in.
AM: It’s wonderful to hear men in the industry are eager to see a positive shift. Women have contributed to the sciences for years, but we rarely hear those stories. Even today, as a woman in tech, I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of challenges. What are some of the stigmas you’ve faced, and how have you navigated those situations?
LMB: It’s been an interesting journey for me creating a platform and ecosystem dedicated to this space. I’ve been sexually harassed, bullied, denied funds over and over, and blatantly told I would fail. I have had ideas stolen and had men take credit for my hard work and go on to win other opportunities and I’ve been passed over by companies who end up giving larger budgets to companies run by men.
Through the years I have gone from shedding tears and feeling frustrated and wanting to give up, to literally succumbing to a burn out. Recently, I realized something powerful. That no matter what has happened, I am still standing. I navigate all situations with a commitment to maintain my resilience, integrity and grace. Those are my personal keywords—to always meet every challenge and mean-spirited person with a sense of grace and resilience, because at the end of the day, these obstacles can be turned into my strengths.
AM: I’m sorry to hear about these horrible challenges, but incredibly inspired to see you standing tall and your strong sense of purpose and determination. About your next Wonder Women Tech conference is in November, do you have any exclusive content planned for 2019?
LMB: I’m really excited about this year. Over the last five years, our programming has been solid and inspiring. People rave about our programming and I am incredibly proud of what I’ve designed right down to naming the panels and planning the stage times. This year our theme is #WeAreFuture because I wanted to create a truly immersive and experiential national conference.
We will have some cool interactive sessions to engage our audiences, a fashion tech show curated by a fashion tech founder who specializes in merging haute couture with technology, and VR experiences provided by Samsung. We will have two stages, featuring keynotes, speakers, lively panel discussions, and interactive performances. And as always, we will have our Mentor Magic Sessions, which pairs attendees with mentors who are industry professionals.
Mindful Moments, a program I introduced at last year’s conference, will return as well as art displays and live painting to engage the cross-section of art + tech. I am passionate about being human centered and creating an experience which engages and supports the whole self. I believe these are the ingredients that will allow us to change the world together.
WomanScape would like to thank Lisa Mae for taking time from her incredibly busy schedule to share more about her work and what’s needed to move the needle in the tech industry. If you have questions or would like more information about attending or participating in Wonder Woman Tech, please visit their website at: https://wonderwomentech.com.