Hi! My name is Nanki Grewal, and I’m a college student currently studying computer science in
the San Francisco Bay Area. You can imagine how exciting it must be to be studying something
in the world’s capital of that very industry. Sometimes, I swear I can hear the engine of Silicon
Valley churning away, generating new technologies (and profits) previously thought impossible.
It’s undoubtedly thrilling to be lucky enough to be here at this point in history, when the tech
industry is moving faster than the speed of light and with new world-changing technologies
coming out every few years. But sometimes, even as I witness the huge benefits of Silicon
Valley’s work and as I wait in anticipation to one day work for these corporations, I sit back and
think about the actual implications of modern technology. I get so caught up in being a “tech
bro” that I forget that sometimes, Silicon Valley ignores its moral responsibility for making
technology an equalizer across a global platform, rather than the elitist culture it currently
I strongly believe that computer science is the greatest way to create a far-reaching change in the
world. Nothing can go as far as efficiently as technology can. But sometimes, it seems that
companies forgo that possibility in return for profit made off those who are already relatively
privileged. For example, it’s much more difficult to create a tool that brings actual, useful
education to rural villages in India than it is to create another app for getting food delivered to
your home. Problems of the unfortunate are more complicated, and it seems as though the tech
industry has settled into improving lives of those who don’t actually need that much change
while ignoring the largest market they have: the globally disenfranchised.
Don’t get me wrong – I think innovation for the sake of innovation is great! Artificial
Intelligence research is fantastic and will have far-reaching implications in a few years when the
rest of technology catches up. That’s actually the field I’m most interested in learning about and
working in myself. But we, as a collective, need to reshape Silicon Valley (which I use as a
metaphor for every major tech hub in the world) to have objectives which also include the poor,
the oppressed, and the forgotten around the world. We need to start thinking about how
technology can help education in communities where that is not usually financially feasible, help
deliver clean water to drought stricken areas, do soil analysis on farms in even the most rural
areas of the planet in an understandable and usable way for farmers, create apps for medical
diagnoses and maybe even treatment in places where doctors are not readily available, and even
It has been made abundantly clear throughout the years that Silicon Valley is reluctant to let
women engineers through the door. A strong culture of toxic masculinity has permeated a space
which should, in theory, be the most forward thinking and inclusive space in the entire world.
Rather, Silicon Valley is surprisingly conservative, both socially and financially; it’s especially
surprising considering it is located just a few miles south of downtown San Francisco, the crux
of liberal culture. That’s why I think most start ups and mainstream technologies today fail to
help globally disenfranchised communities – because people who might understand that struggle
are never let through the door during the hiring process.
Women who might understand the needs of working mothers worldwide are less likely to be
hired in a space where their engineering ideas and feedback might lend to a solution that helps
mothers everywhere; someone whose parents have immigrated from India and have witnessed
and maybe even lived in extreme poverty are not given the same chance as their white American
counterparts to maybe help those in poverty; those who are LGBTQ+ are rarely, if ever, heard
from in the engineering room, never able to give feedback on AI algorithms filtering hate speech
on Facebook; the examples go on. Thus, I think Silicon Valley’s path to worldwide success
begins with major corporations being more inclusive towards women, minorities, and the
historically oppressed. It’s only when you hear from people with different perspectives that you
can create a solution for a problem that an entire group of people might be facing.
There’s a joke in start-up culture: create a problem, sell a solution. I think that’s the loop that
many corporations today have found themselves in. But there are so many examples of actual
problems around the world that it is inexcusable for the tech industry to continue pretending
otherwise. Financial liberation of women worldwide is a huge one. That’s something that really
drew me to Ladki Love. It is a simple idea that concentrates on an issue much bigger than
“which fast food we could have delivered to our doorstep today?” We need more ideas like this.
Technology is meant to be a simple way to do what was before a huge task. There are plenty of
huge tasks in the world, and I think we need to use technology to its greatest possibility.
What makes me a #STEMinist isn’t just the fact that I think there needs to be more women in
tech, but that I also think the solutions created by technology need to be geared towards people
who have been long ignored, and who have been dealt a tough hand in life. The company’s
culture needs to be equalized, but so does the actual tech it produces.
Post written by guest writer Nanki Grewal
Find more of Nanki at her blog: www.nankigrewal.com