Who We Are: Sarah Revi Sterling
2012 women of vision award winner for the Social Impact Award
Sarah Revi Sterling started at Microsoft as a web designer contractor in 1994 after realizing she wasn’t going to ever be Poet Laureate. That said, humanities majors at her university were lucky to have to take programming classes throughout their undergrad degree, which came to great use. Sterling rose up the ranks at Microsoft in the Windows and BackOffice divisions, and in 2000 joined the External Research Programs team in Microsoft Research. Always a feminist, including her days playing men’s high school lacrosse (a disaster) , she attended her first Grace Hopper’s conference in 2000 in Vancouver, where everything changed after meeting the incredible senior women that would someday mentor her in a variety of ways. She came back to Microsoft Research with a fire in the belly to create onramps for non-technical women to become just that, and spearheaded Microsoft Research’s gender equity programs which included support for programs such as the National Center for Women and IT Workforce Alliance, the CRA-W Graduate Cohort, and RFPs for individual women and computing efforts across the US and Canada. At the top of her time in gender equity research and programs, she testified for NCWIT and Microsoft in front of the US Congress on the dearth of females in high tech and what this meant from a national competitive and economic perspective. In 2005 she moved her focus to the ceilings and limitations that women from less-developed countries experienced vis a vis technical opportunities. Pursuing her PhD at the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and interning at Microsoft Research Labs India, she studied how Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) programs, intended to function as poverty alleviation strategies where traditional International Development had failed, actually failed many women – who bear the brunt of the world’s poverty. Working with ICTD and Gender experts and programs around the world, she helped publicize what works and doesn’t work in ICTD, affecting the larger development and funding communities. Based on her tenets of “good” ICTD, she created communications systems for women off the cellular and electrical grid in East Africa for her dissertation, which was turned into a book—Advancement through Interactive Radio. Various iterations of the AIR project have now been deployed and running for several years in the Amazon, central Africa, Nigeria, India and Panama. Upon receiving her PhD in 2008, her driving goal was to start an ICTD program for practitioners, and she founded the only master’s program in ICTD in the US with the ATLAS Institute Director, John Bennett, and the help of the ATLAS Board of Advisors. Her first cohort graduates this spring, having already conducted practicums with leading private and public sector organizations in Haiti, Nepal, India, and underserved communities in the United States. She is firmly committed to the practical, sustainable and equitable application of ICTD to support education, health and other development efforts. She consults for many ICTD and development organizations, serves on the Panel of Advisors for the UN’s ICTD division, and is active in both the research and practical applications of ICTD, contributing influential papers and programs to the field. And this is only the beginning for this English major.