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Photographer Helena Price sees an array of individuals in the tech industry crowd

She asked herself: Where are the faces like mine?

Helena Price took dozens of portraits to capture the unseen faces of the U.S. tech industry
Helena Price took dozens of portraits to capture the unseen faces of the U.S. tech industry
Asa Mathat

"Where are the faces like mine?"

That's the question photographer Helena Price hoped to answer with her recent project, Techies.

Helena Price

So many people who are older, non-white or LGBT don't see many people like themselves in the tech industry. But while the tech industry remains overwhelmingly white and male, it is not exclusively so.

Price said she wanted to address the issue that prevents some people from going into tech — the thought that no one like them is doing it.

The project is not just a series of dramatic pictures, it also allows its subjects to tell their own stories about finding their way into tech, and some of the challenges they faced.

For example, Google researcher Nancy Douyon talks about her Haitian-American parents, ending up in foster care at 14, and the people who helped her break into the tech industry, including Intel's Genevieve Bell.

Helping more people see themselves in tech is personal for Price. Though she is white, Price said she grew up in rural North Carolina, and felt like an outsider herself during her stints at a handful of tech companies.

Her co-workers went to Harvard and Stanford. Some were millionaires. She would visit their mansions and then go home to ramen dinners and an empty bank account.

There are bigger challenges, some of which she challenged the leaders of the tech industry to take on.

"I'm going to ask you to get uncomfortable," Price said on one of the slides she presented during her talk at Code. "To consider the idea that tech is not the meritocracy you think it is."

Price said her initial goal of the project and the conference appearance is to increase awareness.

"The audience I'm speaking to here is primarily composed of white male executives and journalists, and many of them are fortunate enough to have never experienced bias or discrimination based on their gender, race or sexuality, so it's hard for them to even imagine the problems other people in tech are facing," Price told Recode ahead of her onstage talk. "Hopefully, today's talk can start to paint a picture for them and put the issues on their radar."

Of course, awareness is only a starting point. "Once you're aware, you now have a responsibility to do something about it," she said. "The best thing I could recommend would be visiting Project Include, a diversity initiative created in part by members of my project, which includes the most comprehensive list I've ever seen of ways you can take action as both an executive and an employee."

Price said she has been pleased by the response to her photography project, though she acknowledges she also has her share of critics.

"It was my hope that this project would stimulate new discourse around diversity and the state of tech in 2016, and it has been amazing to watch that happen," Price said.

As for the critics, she shrugs off those who think Silicon Valley is just fine as is, and understands the negative sentiment around the fact it is a white woman's project on diversity that is getting attention.

"That anger comes from a totally valid place, and I hope that this paves the way for more diversity projects to get funding and attention, from the perspectives of other underrepresented creators."

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