Chicas Poderosas: Starting a Network

This post was guest-written by Mariana Santos, who founded and manages Chicas Poderosas, a new project she is developing as a Knight International Journalism Fellow. We recently published a post detailing the project itself.

Working in newsrooms with a multidisciplinary team of developers, journalists and designers became my everyday life as part of the Guardian Interactive team over the last 3 years. This began with my former boss Alastair Dant, who had a vision not only to start the Guardian Interactive team, but to recognize the need for a woman in a determinant position on his team. This changed my life; first it was the chance to work with a genius, and secondly to see that being a woman was actually making a difference in our every-day work environment, as we created news stories with a cutting edge technology and a disruptive attitude towards communication.


Mariana Santos, founder of Chicas Poderosas (photo used with permission)

This made me want to share this experience with other women. I feel that we, women, especially among the Latin world are the first ones to cut our own wings and not allow ourselves to dream too high and to honestly believe we can reach far in our careers. I am not sure if it is due to humility or a lack of confidence, or maybe even an overdose of high expectations and an obsession with perfection! Our society does enough of that, making it harder for women to get further ahead in high level management and in some technical jobs. I believe we need to be the first ones to believe in ourselves.

That's why I'm launching “Chicas Poderosas” (Powerful Women) in Latin America, with support from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Knight Foundation. I am calling on the best professionals I've worked with to the same table, so we can share our stories about how we got to where we are now and how it is possible for any girl to get where they want as well.

We'll share some tools and processes that are specific to these roles we are talking about: data mining, scraping, development for interactive features, investigative techniques, and visual storytelling techniques, etc. However, mainly we aim to gather a group of strangers together with different skills in order to work together, embrace change, and celebrate the possibility of developing news stories. These stories may be interactive, animated or a simple data visualisation, using all the skills taught by the team where the participants learn how to develop a process where everyone contributes to a better product.

The other goal of Chicas Poderosas is to start a network where people can keep in contact, keep developing, and keep sharing knowledge.

Chicas Poderosas aims to start a chapter in each Latin American country with representatives who will work as ambassadors spreading knowledge and the philosophy of embracing team-work, believing in women who can make a change in technical environment in newsrooms. The idea is to empower women to believe in themselves and to work hard. We want to empower that pro-active attitude, entrepreneurial spirit… to do more and talk less! We came to the conclusion that the goal of “perfection” is the enemy of “great,” as sometimes being too detail oriented leads us to not do something if we think it is not going to be awesome. I believe sometimes we need to allow ourselves to do something even if it's not perfect, (but at least we tried) and that if we learn through failure, then we can always launch version 2.0!

You can follow Mariana and her work with Chicas Poderosas on their website, Facebook, and on Twitter @poderosaschicas. If you’re in Latin America, watch for one of their events.


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