Tech Sisters – Case Study
Tech Sisters is a newsletter I founded that connects and inspires Muslim women in tech. It runs fortnightly and features interviews from the women in our community and articles on topics such as working remotely, making a career transition, and setting professional boundaries. I have and continue to do everything myself: building the website, sourcing and conducting the interviews, researching and writing articles, and putting together the newsletter. It’s quite a lot of work, but I’m immensely proud of the content I’m putting out and the community I’m building.
Hey #WomenWhoCode, are there any other Muslim women here? I’m feeling a little bummed that I haven’t met anyone else like me so far in my career— Grace Witter (@gracew1tter) March 25, 2019
The idea for Tech Sisters came when I reached out to Twitter to connect with other women like me. I had been working as a developer for a few years at that point and never met any other hijabis. From the response I received from that tweet, I recognised that there’s a critical need to connect the members of this community and highlight our stories and achievements. “Sister” is what Muslim women call each other, so naming the site “Tech Sisters” felt like a natural way to speak directly to Muslim women but not exclude anyone else who wants to join.
I initially wanted Tech Sisters to have a bright red colour scheme and sans-serif headings because we liked the warm, friendly energy. Eventually, the red felt too intense to me, so I moved towards a calmer, light blue scheme. I also changed the heading fonts to a Medium-style serif to look more like a publication. The site still has a friendly energy, but less manic and more like a cool older sister.
I wanted to create a logo design that immediately conveys a sense of diversity, inclusion, and sisterhood. My 7-year-old daughter helped me sketch some of the first ideas; she’s my favourite design partner. I decided to use two profiles of women, one wearing a hijab and one not, in two different shades of blue. The images are staggered so we can associate them as part of a group.
There aren’t many stock photos of Muslim women and none of us in a work setting. I thought that the best way to include the exact imagery I wanted was to draw it myself. I used Pablo Stanley’s fantastically helpful Humaaans illustration library as a starting point and drew two pictures representing Muslim women collaborating at work. I simplified the drawings from cluttered, full-body representations to only include the upper body and head. This way, the meaning and impact of the illustrations are immediately apparent.
Tech Sisters is hosted on WordPress using a custom child theme of WordPress’ Twenty Nineteen theme. I did this so that I could benefit from WordPress’ theme updates while still using my custom styles and functionality. I plan on improving editability through using Advanced Custom Themes, but as this is still a side project, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
For the interviews, I have a list of women I’d love to talk to and reach out to them explaining the community aspect of Tech Sisters. Once they agree to the interview, I spend some time researching them and put together a list of about ten questions. I either send the interview questions directly to the interviewees, and they send back a completed version, or we conduct the interview over a video call; it’s their choice.
For the articles, I pay attention to questions and discussions that pop up in this niche and try my best to write content that addresses them. Writing the articles is especially challenging for me; I haven’t done any serious writing since university, and it sometimes feels painful to drag it out of my mind. Thank goodness for Grammarly!
I use MailChimp to build and send the newsletter. There’s a popup opt-in form on the website and some call to action buttons. The newsletter goes out every other week and, in addition to the interview and article, I write an introduction, welcome new members, spotlight achievements in our community, and links to relevant articles. My list is growing, perhaps not as quickly as I would like, but it’s slow and steady progress. I intend to create some freebies and improve my social media presence to help it grow a little faster.