Everyone wants the formula for innovation. Whether you believe it’s learned or innate, BlackEnterprise.com’s Innovator of the Week series gives you a glimpse into the lives of founders/co-founders, business execs, entrepreneurs and artists revolutionizing their respective industries through technology and social media.
When it comes to technology, it’s not a man’s world—and two Atlanta-based change agents are making that very clear.
Sabrina Harvey and Ashia Sims are kicking the door of opportunity open with the second annual Women Interactive Creative Technology Festival. Geared toward female content producers, tech enthusiasts, developers and innovators, the one-day festival equips festival attendees with the tools they need to bring their entrepreneurial vision to fruition. Held on the campus of Spelman University Saturday, November 9, the conference is expected to draw a large crowd of college students, collegiate faculty and tech producers from Atlanta and beyond, centering programming around the festival’s three pillars: interaction, education and inspiration.
Festival participants will engage with technology in the Interactive Atrium, view revolutionary media content in the signature Screening Room, experience hi-tech exhibitions from Madame You and Spelman’s all female robotics team, the SpelBots, among others, and tech talks in the Inspiration Hall, as well as participate in media/technology workshop presentations in the Education Suites. This year, keynote speakers will includeJames Andrews of Studio Good, Ananda Leeke, founder of Digital Sisterhood Network, and Dr. Ayoka Chenzira, filmmaker, interactive digital media artist and founding director of the Spelman College Digital Moving Image Salon. Workshops on coding, UX design, WordPress, graphic novel creation and digital advocacy will go on throughout the day, and Women Interactive’s title sponsor Microsoft will conduct a workshop on gaming.
The founding curators never imagined that Women Interactive, produced by Art of Genius Creative Technology Series, would spark from their former consulting job. With the creative tech festival a day away,BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the duo to discuss shaking up the tech space, getting more women involved in technology and what it means to be an innovator today.
Getting started: Drawn to tech through her work in the music industry, Harvey met Sims, a natural born blerd since her pre-teen years, while working on a project as a consultant. The two hit it off, connecting over conversations about women in tech and content production. After launching FridayGirlTV, an online destination featuring episodic and short form programming geared toward women, the duo received numerous questions about what it takes to produce web-based content. They started hosting workshops and officially launched Art of Genius in 2011.
“As we taught those classes, we saw a much needed platform for women to get together to discuss ideas about how technology could be used in the creative space, which was missing. Two things were really missing in that space: a platform for women and women of color, and a platform for women to discuss being creative with technology,” says Harvey.
From that, Women Innovate was born and the first conference kicked off in 2012.
Atlanta’s thriving tech scene: “Atlanta has this really vibrant and active startup technology community. It has been growing by leaps and bounds in maybe the last two or three years as people realize that this is a really great city to come [to]. There is a lot of innovation here. You have the different universities like Georgia Tech. You have a lot of companies like Turner [Broadcasting] that are based here, so there’s a lot of talent here and there are a lot of people interested in doing really cool things,” says Sims.
Ladies first: “When you are a creator, not only do you have a seat at the table but it’s another form of economic prosperity, which is important not just for women of color, but for people of color,” Harvey says. “That can be a little form of economic prosperity for our communities and who better to lead that charge than women.” Sims believes with the production of content and technology, a woman’s voice is essential to diversifying what’s being created. “Let’s encourage more women to open the door, and sit at the table.”
Innovators make their own rules: “When you’re an innovator, you kind of have to have this fire in you to speak out even when it may not be the most popular train of thought at the moment…and really not be afraid to break barriers, go against the grain,” Harvey says.
It’s never easy, but the innovative team puts their fears and reservations to the side for their calling. “An emotion that a lot of people may not equate to being an innovator, but it’s very much there, is fear, especially, like Sabrina said, going against the grain and being a civil anarchist, and not only just sitting at the table but kicking in the door with your stilettos and pulling up a chair whether you have a space or not,” says Sims.”
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