Be the change you wish to see in the world. It’s great advice. But let’s be honest: it’s also a challenge when you’re working full-time. Disruptors need to have epic time management skills, or a sick trust fund to fulfill Gandhi’s ideal. Fortunately, Christina Morillo and Stephanie Morillo (no relation) have plenty of the former. Tired of feeling invisible within their own professions, the NYC-based tech professionals decided to agitate for representation in their leisure time. Together, they started WOCinTech, a community that gives women of colour and non-binary people in tech not just a voice, but a face. Since its inception in 2015, WOCinTech has put the majority of its resources into creating a library of 500-plus stock photos—frequently used by print and digital publications—featuring a more diverse range of women in tech-world scenarios. Even better, the models are actual WOC who work in the tech industry!
We talked to Christina and Stephanie about the origins of their brilliant idea and the value of diversity in stock photography.
Who do you typically associate with the term “women in tech”?
Stephanie: Mostly white women. Even now, in diversity and inclusion efforts, we say “women and minorities” as if women are separate from all of the other underrepresented groups we lump into the “minorities” banner. Intersectionality is still a relatively new concept in tech, but I knew that to feel comfortable in a space, I wanted to be addressed as a woman of colour and be seen as such. I was personally tired of hearing conference organizers and companies pat themselves on the back for hiring more women or having more women go to their events, only to see that few of these women were black or Latina, for example.
How did the stock photography bank come about?
Christina: When building the wocintechchat.com site last summer I noticed that there were no stock images of women in tech who looked like both Stephanie and I. I have been in the industry for over 17 years and this really frustrated me. It’s upsetting to read about the dismal diversity numbers daily but this is reaffirmed whenever there is no visual representation of us. I wanted us to do something about it and here we are today three shoots later.
What are your personal favourite images to date, and why?
Christina: I don’t have a favourite. I really do love the entire collection. We’ve had three shoots so far and over 500 images. Each shoot was such a unique experience and I am really proud of the fact that each of these photos really capture this. I love them all!
Stephanie: Definitely this one of software engineer Jasmine Greenaway. It’s just such a great shot and could be used in so many different ways; in an article about books, about learning how to program, about professional development and growth. It just seems so real; like she casually looked up from reading a book. That’s what I love about these photos; they don’t look staged in the ways we’ve come to see stock photos get staged.
You made them free to use. Why? And how did you pay for them?
Christina: This stock photo shoot initiative has always been centered around representation in tech and so we didn’t want anyone to have any excuse to not use these photos.
With the first shoot we had to cover some minor expenses out of pocket but we were lucky to meet some of the most amazing sponsors along the way. A huge forever grateful shout out to DigitalOcean, MissJessies, GitHub, Google’s Women Techmakers, Trello, Microsoft and Buffer who have all provided sponsorships.
Why is it so important to you to show women of colour and non-binary people within the field of tech?
Stephanie: Because they deserve to be seen. Technologists of colour are doing and creating amazing things, and the next generation of technologists should see themselves reflected in this industry. It’s important that people understand that we are already here.