World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2020

Thursday, July 30th, marks the seventh annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

This global event was launched in 2013, when the General Assembly of the United Nations came together to dedicate a day to raising awareness about human trafficking and the situations of the victims involved, and to promote and protect their rights. 

This year’s theme, “Committed to the Cause: Working on the Frontline to End Human Trafficking,” is appropriately focused on recognizing frontline workers who are committed to identifying, supporting, counseling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.

What is Human Trafficking?

The scale of human trafficking is staggering, entrapping an estimated 40.3 million people globally in conditions of modern day slavery. Trafficking takes many forms but by definition, includes the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, including the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation and forced labor. 

As a result of mainstream media and Hollywood blockbusters, human trafficking is often depicted in sensationalized images that nearly always begins with a dramatized kidnapping, leading to a young woman being forced into sex work. More often than not, this crime is perpetuated by an underground global prostitution ring that is ultimately taken down by an equally dramatic rescue. 

While this scenario can play out in reality, the large majority of human trafficking cases look vastly different. Most traffickers utilize psychological tactics to trick, manipulate or threaten their victims, often around the premise of economic opportunity and bait-and-switch promises of a better life. Perpetrators can be strangers or have familiar faces: a romantic partner, a family member, and even parents. 

Though the overwhelming majority of commercial sex trafficking victims are women and girls─99% according to the International Labor Organization─trafficking takes many forms, including forced labor, indentured servitude, child marriage and conscription (i.e. child soldiers)─and can impact men and boys, who are often silent, unseen victims of modern day slavery. The most recent data in the UN Global Report on the Trafficking in Persons estimates that men account for 21% of all persons trafficked globally, and more than half of all trafficking victims of forced labor. The same report estimates that 30% of all detected victims worldwide are children. 

Trafficking in the U.S.: The Ugly Truth

While there are myriad myths and misconceptions about human trafficking, there are a few notable ones that we want to bust as we approach World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and highlight some vital, important truths about this horrific crime. Among them:

  • Trafficking is not merely a problem happening in third-world countries “over there,” among the faces of young women and girls in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. Modern day slavery is alive and well in the U.S. today, with an estimated 400,000 people believed to be trapped working as modern slaves: at every major sporting event, in truck stops, in restaurants, on farms, in massage parlors and in hotels. Trafficking hides in plain sight and is seen, touched and supported by Americans everyday, in every zip code across the country.

    Likewise, victims cannot be profiled and distanced in images of the “other.” Individuals exploited and trafficked everyday are U.S.-born citizens just as they are foreign nationals, living in or brought to this country by both illegal and lawful means.
  • Traffickers do not only target poor individuals from small rural villages. While poverty is a common vulnerability, it alone is not a single causal factor of human trafficking. There are a multitude of compounding factors that can increase an individual’s vulnerability to trafficking: homelessness, history of trauma or violence, disability, neglect, family breakdown, substance abuse, or a combination of these and many other factors. Though in all cases, traffickers exploit the vulnerabilities that individuals already face.

    And while trafficking can happen to anyone, there are undeniable gender and racial dimensions to human trafficking that disproportionately affect women of color. In the U.S., approximately 40% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are Black and compared to their racial counterparts, Black girls are more likely to be trafficked at a younger age. One study found that 85% of those who bought sex on the internet were white men and in an interview with the Urban Institute, traffickers admitted their belief that trafficking Black women would land them less jail time than trafficking white women, if caught.

    Recognizing, understanding and acknowledging the intrinsic link between human trafficking and structural racism in the U.S. is the first essential step in addressing the root causes of this crime.
  • Victims are rarely “freed” from their trafficking experience despite exiting their exploitation. The climactic rescue scenes that unfold on screen are typically followed by images of a resumed “normal” life. Yet, this portrayal is problematic in multiple ways: it not only over-simplifies the survivors’ trafficking experience with a start and end point, disregarding the lifetime of discrimination, oppression and exploitation they have likely faced and will most likely continue to face, it also assumes a “‘rescue’ mentality steeped in racialized perspectives” that are founded on the notions of white saviorism.

    The rescue scenario also obscures the complex reality of victims’ experiences, crafted on assumptions that they are powerless to leave, are held against their will or always want to get out. Though sometimes the case, people in trafficking situations also stay for a complex array of reasons including familial pressures, economic needs, or lack of basic necessities to physically leave, such as transportation or a safe place to live. In other cases, trafficked individuals may not be aware they have been trafficked or are a victim of a crime, having been manipulated by their traffickers or born into their enslaved circumstances.

    Importantly, the point of escape is hardly the end, but the beginning of another lifelong journey that coexists in parallel to a survivor’s trafficking experience. Not only are a small percentage of survivors ever “rescued,” even fewer are able to secure true freedom or justice, burdened by stigma, lack of opportunity and an inherently biased system that discriminates against them.

    Over the past five years, only 1,230 federal prosecutions were initiated against human traffickers, representing less than 3% of total cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. At the same time, survivors are too often criminalized for the crimes committed against them. Nineteen states can still arrest and charge youth survivors with the crime of prostitution despite being a victim of child sex trafficking.

    That’s right: despite growing consensus that a child cannot be a prostitute, there are still states and legislators who believe that a minor can willingly and consensually engage in commercial sex. And Black children bear the brunt of these arrests, disproportionately making up nearly 58% of all juvenile prostitution arrests.

What Next? Life After “The Life”

Human trafficking is a lifetime cost for survivors, especially for women and children of color. Yet, very few ask what comes after “the rescue.” What happens after the dust settles and a survivor, against all odds, is able to imagine their future beyond the shelter and trauma support group? Or even years after they have started down their road to recovery? According to one nonprofit executive, many in the human trafficking community shy away from the notion of the rescue “because it doesn’t give merit to the process that is at play when a trafficking victim exist the Life.”

At AnnieCannons, we recognize that survivors face insurmountable barriers to sustainable recovery that are impacted by a lifetime of multiple victimizations. We know that trauma is not a one-time event, and a return to a pre-trafficking “normal” only perpetuates the violence and discrimination that created opportunities for their exploitation in the first place. We aim to permanently break this cycle by unlocking the talents, brilliance, ingenuity and perseverance that survivors already possess, yet are largely overlooked. 

We see this potential, and work hand-in-hand with survivors in our program, on our team, and in our workplace to leverage their abilities and gain the economic power they deserve. In doing so, we are also challenging the status quo that discriminates against survivors, women and minorities in the workplace, demanding a new improved normal that is built on inclusion and diversity.

How YOU Can Help

Human trafficking is a global problem that requires a global solution. Yet, despite the grand scale of this issue, there are simple, everyday ways that we can all fight against modern day slavery. There is a role for everyone to play and together, we can stop human trafficking and demand justice for survivors in this country. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Support frontline workers fighting trafficking and supporting survivors in your community. Human trafficking, racial injustice and gender inequality are mutually-reinforcing when we talk about vulnerability and exploitation. Don’t know where to begin? Start by reaching out to your local shelters and victim services providers to see how you can help. You can also email us at info@anniecannons.com to learn more about how you can support survivors.
  • Be a mindful consumer. Trafficking bleeds into every global supply chain, from the clothes you wear to the food you eat. Support socially responsible businesses and demand social responsibility from businesses in your community. Visit KnowTheChain to see which industries and companies are working to eliminate slavery from their products.
  • Most importantly, use your platform and your social advantage to fight alongside survivors and amplify their voices. Allyship is needed now, more than ever.  

AnnieCannons stands in solidarity with Black communities.

We spent the past week talking amongst ourselves and reflecting on recent events in the United States. 

Below is a personal essay written by AnnieCannons’ Director of Product, Grace McCants, followed by a snapshot of AnnieCannons’ community members’ reflections.

We’re also working on an action plan of short- and long-term changes AnnieCannons can make internally and promote externally to combat racism and racial violence.  


It took a long time (and wine) for me to figure out what I wanted to say publicly at this moment. The best I could think of was to talk for a moment about how I feel. And maybe a bit about how I got here. The act of writing it all down was a cathartic and ultimately helpful exercise. Thank you all in advance for reading. 

How do I feel? I feel like shit. I feel hopeless, angry, and scared at the world. I feel disappointed. And I feel sad. I feel like the little cup that holds my ability to deal with it all is full and I can’t handle much more. In these moments, therapists have told me I am what they call “OVERWHELMED.”

Jokes aside, this is not a new feeling at all. Racial violence in America is not new. The disproportionate racial violence against black people is not new. Very disturbing, publicly documented, viral racial violence is not new. It’s not new for me up close or from afar and I assume not new for many folks reading. I’ve cried many times about this on a personal level. I’ve long considered and drunkenly, through tears, asked friends, “why do people hate black people so much?” 

Which is to say, fairly confidently, that I’ve never quite gotten it. I grew up listening to Nina Simone tell me I was “Young, gifted, and black!” And was told by my white mom how important and valuable being black was. But I was also taught that despite me being fucking amazing, there were a lot of people that either didn’t feel that way, or benefitted directly from keeping black people down. And that life was simply not fair for some folks in this country.

Strangely, something that keeps coming to mind is a quote from an interview Chris Rock gave a while back about the notion of “black progress.” He says, 

“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before…

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.”

This connected the dots for me in a way that previously – well, before I read the interview in 2012 – I only understood as a feeling. Black people have always been good. And progress will only occur when white people do better and do more. We have always been worthy of it all. We have always known it. 

Two days ago a young black man ran past me towards the demonstrations in downtown Chicago, yelling into his phone, “we kings and queens in this bitch.” It breaks my heart to know that he had to risk his life that night to prove it. 

It is not the job of black folks to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and present better for the structures that exploit and tear us down. 

It is the job of our proposed allies to work harder to keep us alive. Explicitly that means advocate for us when we’re not in the room, fight for us when we don’t have the energy to fight anymore, and imagine a world where hierarchy, competition, and capital do not determine worth. “Progress” is the job of folks who have never shed a tear for a loved one who has been murdered by the police or whose life has been ruined by the criminal justice system. It is your job to consider why we’ve been crying about this since we were old enough to understand. 

Black people have always been deserving of praise, of love, of safety, and of peace. We have always been excellent. And things will not get better without the progress of white people and a commitment that your comfort is not more valuable than our lives. 

I’ll close with a few PSAs:

The term “woke” comes from the full term “stay woke” which indicates action, not arrival. Also, people don’t really say woke anymore.

Anti-racism is not a badge. It is work. And a lifetime of work. 

Solidarity is commitment. 

Allyship is imperative. 

There are many resources on how to do this work. I know a lot of us already are doing anti-racism work so please share your resources. Get an accountabilibuddy – a buddy to keep you accountable. 

The idea to create and share this statement is the bare minimum. It is the very least we can do as an organization. We’ll follow up shortly with a commitment to change and a plan of action.

The reflections below are presented largely unedited and in list form to uplift the individual and collective voices of our community.

The AnnieCannons community has expressed:

  • Sadness, outrage, anxiety, depression, anger, grief, and pain.
  • Support by following the lead of women and families of color, standing by their side, and uplifting their voices.
  • A desire to stand for the lives, well-being, and rights of all black people.
  • Fear for their black children.
  • Questions of how to prepare their children for the harsh realities of the world while allowing them to feel hopeful and that they can make change.
  • Acknowledgement of the false and harmful notion of whiteness as dominant or default.
  • “Injustice + time does not = justice.”
  • Racism being a major part of the United States’ history and that it’s all Americans’ job to recognize it, condemn it, root it out, and replace it with more just and decent institutions and policies.
  • “Revolution is not a one-time event.” 
  • That rioting is a justifiable response to centuries of state-sanctioned violence. That it is self defense. To focus on Black acts of communal self-defense rather than the centuries of systemic violence and against them misses the point.
  • Attempting to stay upbeat for the sake of their kids.
  • That this is not new. 
  • The trauma caused by these black lynchings being posted and shared digitally and without care.
  • That we are tired.

Thanks for reading,

Grace

COVID-19: How AnnieCannons is Responding

We know that crises disproportionately affect women and exacerbates gender-based violence and inequality. For survivors already facing hardships, the impacts can be devastating.

At AnnieCannons, our utmost priority is protecting the health, safety, and well-being of the survivors we serve through our software development training program. 

To mitigate the potential impacts the virus can have on the lives and livelihoods of our students and broader community, we have temporarily shifted all classroom instruction to a remote platform to do our part in halting the spread of the virus, and provided students’ with accommodations for connectivity and hardware. 

We have also shared the latest COVID-19 prevention and response recommendations to empower survivors with the information they need to protect their health and the health of their families. Our training Instructors are checking-in with each student to make sure they have the resources and support they need during this time of uncertainty; for survivors, immediate crises can often trigger historic trauma.

Importantly, we have taken measures as an organization to reinforce our investment in families and our unwavering commitment to promoting an inclusive workplace, especially for women. These measures include encouraging employees to make use of our generous paid sick and time off policies during this time, and covering local transport for any essential work-related travel through our partnership with Uber Community Impact Initiative. 

Click here to see how the pandemic disproportionately impacts women around the world.  

We also urge other companies, especially those with a majority female staffbase as well as organizations seeking to create a more inclusive workplace, to re-evaluate their existing policies to better accommodate worker flexibility during this COVID-19 crisis.

How YOU Can Help Survivors of Human Trafficking and Gender-Based Violence

During this period of uncertainty, AnnieCannons is doing all it can to support survivors and staff with a flexible working and learning environment.

Unfortunately, for the students, remote instruction means they will not have the benefit of face-to-face learning and dedicated use of our equipped training space, including built-in childcare and peer support. The lack of in-class participation also means reduced levels of individualized coaching that is so vital to their learning experience.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Donate to AnnieCannons. No contribution is too small, and your support will help us to:
    • Expand teaching time and maximize remote individual support. This will help us to increase instruction time, offer additional 1:1 virtual tutoring, retain student participation, and provide critical follow-up to survivors during this interim crisis period.
    • Accelerate advanced development skills training. We will ramp-up capacity of our trained graduates to respond to high client needs, positioning them to fill a widening labor demand for complex application work as companies move to digitize their workplace and shift to remote teams. This will also open up simpler website work for the newest graduates.
    • Sponsor our current cohort of students. Each survivor faces her own unique hardships that place undue burden on her ability to participate or learn in the midst of crisis. >>> Reach out to info@anniecannons.com to learn more.
    • Invest in our broader crisis preparedness to minimize future disruptions to our survivor training program. We are working diligently to reinforce our online teaching capacity and student support systems for the long-term. 
  • Hire us for your existing or emerging data quality needs. With corporate partners, AnnieCannons has always supplied data work for newly-qualified graduates still in class. With economic uncertainty, we need even more data work to offset reductions in the current workstream. If your company has data projects that require off-site help, please reach out to info@anniecannons.com to explore working together.

Why Support Women in Technology?

Supporting women in technology fields goes beyond simply balancing the numbers. Historically, the tech sector has been white, young and male, and only conscious effort will change the imbalance. The good news is that efforts to close gender gaps in the tech industry yield rewards in the form of happier employees, higher profits, and recognition as a company making a difference. Read on to find out how you can support women in technology, whatever your company role or gender.

Inspire future women in technology

When you support women in technology, you are also supporting the future of the industry. Since 1993, the number of women in the STEM fields of science, engineering, and mathematics has been on the rise. However, in technology fields specifically, female participation has decreased.

A few shocking stats:

  • In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%. This infographic shows staggering statistics.
  • Women hold fewer than  than 20% of US tech jobs (and the number is going down!). 
  • A survey shows that girls show an interest in pursuing careers in STEM fields as young as 11 years old but many get discouraged and lose interest before age 15. 
  • There are only five female CEOs of technology companies in the Fortune 500. 
  • Merely 5% of startup founders are women and only 11% of decision-makers in venture capital groups are women. 

It’s clear that there need to be more initiatives to get young girls interested in technology jobs, and keep them interested. Young women in technology fields face a variety of obstacles:

  • Encountering stereotypes and biases that math is for boys and the arts are for girls. 
  • A lack of mentorship and little knowledge of career paths available to them.
  • The belief that their intelligence is limited to a fixed amount, rather than being unlimited. 

In fact, the American Association of University Women presents eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers that block women’s progress in STEM. The only way to change conceptions like these is to show women in STEM careers as the norm, rather than the exception: 

  • Be aware of your own biases and change the way you talk about women in STEM.
  • Offer science and technology camps for girls to teach them how encountering challenging problems is in the nature of scientific work and that they have the ability to learn.
  • Encourage your female employees to mentor girls who show interest in tech careers and introduce career paths to them.

By showcasing and highlighting the contributions and successes made by women at your tech company, you will be part of the sea of change to inspire and encourage the next generation of women in technology careers. 

Supporting women in technology can increase profits

A report by Morgan Stanley shows a well-documented increase in financial returns for companies with high gender diversity. Those companies have delivered increased returns with lower volatility compared with their low diversity peers, and have outperformed on average in the past five years. The top fifth of selected companies that consistently rank gender diversity among their priorities, with data to back it up, outperformed those that did not. What does all that mean? Getting more women into the tech workforce yields higher profits, and there’s plenty of data to prove it. 

Jessica Alsford, head of the Global Sustainability Research Team at Morgan Stanley, discusses the link between company financial performance and gender diversity. “Gender diversity can improve team decision-making and improve innovation capabilities for development of new products or services,” says Alsford. “It can also create alignment with diverse customer bases and, thus, open up untapped business opportunities.” There is an emerging body of academic and qualitative research that links inclusive work environments with increased returns.  

Want an even more convincing financial argument about supporting women in technology? Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary prefers women founders, saying “They make me more money.  Now this isn’t some kind of academic research, this is real data. This is real money coming back to me.” He links a number of traits often found in women that lead to business success, including time management, goal-setting and taking critiques well. “To succeed, executives need to listen to everyone. That’s something women excel at, especially with critical feedback.”

How your company can support women in technology

During the recruitment process:

Take the time to really analyze your job descriptions. Research shows that men will apply for jobs where they meet 60% of the requirements while women are more reluctant to apply unless they meet  100% of the qualifications. Ensure that only the minimum requirements for the job are stated as such, and include other desired attributes separately. 

Actively source female candidates for open positions. Female-focused associations, career initiatives, leadership conferences, and meetup events are great places to discuss your recruitment and find qualified talent. 

Work with vendors who value diversity:

Partner with companies who bring not only their expertise but also their diversity to your outsourced services. By choosing to work with other companies who value women in technology, your own diversity initiatives can grow. Not only does your choice support other female-focused tech businesses, but you will also gain the value of other diverse perspectives. 

Hiring companies who support women in technology will maximize your diversity efforts and you will be able to make even more of a difference in improving the lives of women. At AnnieCannons, our corporate social responsibility plan centers around lifting survivors of human trafficking out of their situations and teaching them how to be amazing programmers. Hiring us for web development services allows us to continue to grow our program and get more women working in the tech industry.

Show off women in leadership roles:

Women are more likely to accept a new job if the company has female leaders. If your leadership team is gender-balanced, include that in promotional materials around your recruitment efforts. Increase the visibility of your female employees with published content on your company website and social media channels. Encourage them to publish blog posts and articles and invite them to be part of the recruitment process. Seeing other women successful in your company will increase your recruitment power.

Promote work/life balance:

It’s especially important to recognize how working parents can thrive in STEM fields, often because of the experience of parenthood, not at the expense of it. Busy parents who balance their home lives with a career are experienced at long-term planning, quickly putting out fires, listening to others, and keeping track of multiple time tables. They can set realistic goals (and meet them!) which encourages others in the workplace. 

Those performance benefits aren’t limited to parents, either. Many people without children have active households or partners to support and are equally adept at efficient time management. They can multitask like no other, because they know what’s most important and what will be the best value of their time. This translates into work groups where everyone’s time is valued, leading to improved performance and morale. 

There are several aspects of offering a work/life balance that the tech industry could focus on to appeal to more women. Schedule flexibility and opportunities to work from home are valued by many busy women. Invest in families by making parental leave mandatory and having it last longer than average. Showcase the company’s family-friendly policies on your recruitment website and in job descriptions. And it should go without saying that you will have closed the gender pay gap. Even if you don’t publish salaries, including it in your diversity statement and publishing an annual report will demonstrate that you are doing something about the issue. 

Everyone can support women in technology

Susan McDonald of StackPath addresses the need for everyone to get behind supporting women in technology, regardless of gender. When their VP of Community Josh Krammes was selected as a finalist for the Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley Advocate of the Year, her initial reaction was raised eyebrows. However, she recognized how the nomination “perfectly demonstrates the ethos of our ecosystems program: we don’t succeed unless ALL are given the opportunity to succeed.” 

At AnnieCannons, our focus is on closing the gender gap in tech and STEM fields. We deliver tech education to the underserved and underrepresented and provide jobs for survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence. Whether you hire our developers on a web project, partner with us as a volunteer, or donate financially to our cause, your support of AnnieCannons goes directly to supporting women in technology. How is your company showcasing women in tech? We’d love to hear from you!

How To Choose a Website Development Company: Make Your Development Dollars Go Further

If you did a search for website development services, you would be completely overwhelmed by the options and range of costs. Every online business needs a website. And those websites require talented web developers to create amazing customer experiences. When you’re trying to decide whom to use, how do you choose? Finding and hiring high-quality developers can be time-consuming and the quality varies greatly, so here are some tips to help you cut through the noise and find your ideal website developer.

How to Select a Web Development Agency

What is a website developer?

A web developer takes the vision for your website and builds it into an actual site. From form submission and e-commerce functionality to expanding menus and interactive pages, there are many skills that a web developer needs. Because of the variety of code that is utilized for building different website components, it’s best to partner with a web development agency with multiple programmers who can meet all your needs. 

Find the best options

Find out who developed websites that you like. Ask for recommendations from business partners, networking groups, or on LinkedIn. A good word from someone you trust is better than picking a company at random. 

Verify their experience

Once you’ve selected several reputable companies, take a look at their portfolios. Do the sites function the way you expect them to? Are there components that you plan to include in your site, such as interactive pages, contact forms and drop down menus? Ask the companies for case studies and three current clients. Pay attention to the speed and detail of their replies and make sure they fit with your company’s values. 

Since technology evolves, it’s important to hire a developer who can learn new technologies rather than someone who may not adapt when a new one comes along. One tip comes from Nelly Yusupova via Entrepreneur.com

The easiest way to detect whether someone will adapt well to change is to ask questions that will reveal whether a web developer has a love for learning. For example:

  • What new programming languages did you learn recently?
  • What are your go-to places for learning new tech tips and tricks?
  • What are your favorite technology conferences?

Dig into their services

Go deeply into the company’s own site and check out their services and examples. Need smooth, responsive pages? Then look for that kind of content on the site. You may find that the list of prospective agencies begins to whittle itself down just based on what you see. 

One important piece

Modern, forward-thinking companies add one very important thing to their criteria for selecting a website developer:  the developer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan. More and more companies are incorporating corporate social responsibility objectives into their company missions. While the term has sometimes been  applied to employee volunteering , it can be expanded to much more than that, including which vendors you choose.  By selecting a website developer that supports your CSR plan, you are making a strong statement about the kind of company you are.  There is incredible competition for design dollars; your website development budget can go further by partnering with a website developer with a cause. 

Why hire AnnieCannons?

AnnieCannons’ web development services include building websites, developing applications, data services and testing, and other affordable small business technology support. What makes AnnieCannons a great web development choice?

  • We have programmers trained in a variety of languages ready to handle anything your website project needs. 
  • Our clients love our work and we love supporting their projects that are changing the world.
  • We proudly display our portfolio and would be happy to provide current references. 
  • We are constantly learning and testing the newest technologies to build the best products of the modern web.

AnnieCannons’ website developers are passionate about developing websites that are both beautiful and functional. What makes us special is that we transform survivors of human trafficking into software professionals through a robust training program and hands-on experience. Utilizing our website development services gives you a direct hand in lifting people out of traumatic situations and setting their feet firmly on a path to self-sufficiency. 

Hiring us means getting web development services that:

Together, we diversify the technology industry, enable marginalized communities to build their own economic power, and begin to drive the change our world needs. We provide top-quality software services to our clients – proving that anyone with the determination and insight to innovate should be given a fair chance.

3 ways to get involved and do more

Hire AnnieCannons for website development or redesign

Our programmers are well-versed in website development and can make your vision come to life. 

Consult with AnnieCannons to build a native app

Our experience with both websites and apps gives us insight into best practices as well as ways to keep development costs down

Partner with AnnieCannons as part of your own company-wide volunteer efforts

As a volunteer partner, your company’s staff would make a direct impact through our 501(c)(3) SurviveTech Incubator volunteer program. We offer a range of technical, operations, and marketing roles so that any employee can volunteer and make an impact. With SurviveTech, company volunteer work yields results like mobile apps that help us build a world without abuse. AnnieCannons is making a difference in tangible ways, on a daily basis. 

Small businesses give back to their communities through their day-to-day work, and charities allow businesses to target and help causes they care about. By working with our diverse team to build your website or app, you support not only jobs for survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence, but also an increase in software’s gender and racial diversity. Hiring AnnieCannons as your website developer with a cause brings immediate recognition and impact to your money and time.

AnnieCannons awarded major grant by the NoVo Foundation!

AnnieCannons is excited to be among the recipients of The Life Story Grants, a $10 million, three-year initiative funded by the NoVo Foundation to close the on-ramps into the sex trade and open pathways to exit. We have been awarded a six-figure grant over three years so we can deepen our commitment to supporting people experiencing human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and people who are vulnerable. 

Informed by survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, The Life Story Grants invest in solutions that address the systemic failures that allow the commercial sex industry to thrive and profit off of marginalized girls and women, including women of color, trans, LGBTQ, Indigenous and immigrant communities.

AnnieCannons will use this funding to build the ReferAll Platform. ReferAll is a survivor-centered platform that automates the initial intake when survivors seek support services.  It aims to eliminate re-traumatization in the intake process and fix the broken connections in the anti-trafficking continuum of care. ReferAll is designed to launch in the Bay Area as a first step toward providing the tool across the US, and, ultimately, the entire globe.

We are proud to be one of the 15 projects selected to implement systems-based solutions in one of six key areas identified by survivors where inequities enable exploitation: housing, medical needs, law enforcement, trauma and mental health, immigration, and systems impacting youth. 

We still need your help to continue building more SurviveTech – technology that helps people survive trafficking and thrive afterward. Please consider donating to one of our SurviveTech initiatives, or to help us train more talented survivors to work on these products, at anniecannons.org/donate

How Corporate Social Responsibility Benefits Your Company, Your Employees, and the World

What exactly is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? 

In a nutshell, CSR is everything a company does to practice sustainable business development. From environmental impacts to philanthropy, CSR is how a business goes beyond the day-to-day and improves their community. 

Goals of corporate social responsibility include being economically viable, having a positive impact on society, and preserving the environment. CSR is a growing field due to increased environmental concerns as well as economic and social challenges. More consumers are looking for corporations to be generous participants in society and responsible for environmental protection. 

One example of global corporate social responsibility is Starbucks’ plan for 2020 (and beyond): it includes hiring 10,000 refugees across 75 countries, reducing the environmental impact of its cups, and engaging its employees in environmental leadership. 

CSR Benefits To Your Company

When down in the thick of running day-to-day business needs, it can be difficult to focus outwards. However, the benefits of corporate social responsibility within a company can far outweigh the time and effort of incorporating it seamlessly into your company. Through CSR programs including philanthropy and volunteer efforts, businesses can benefit society while boosting their own brands. 

When a business is out in the community assisting others, that community sees the employees helping and getting their hands dirty, which increases the company profile. While CSR shouldn’t be done simply as a marketing effort, the benefits to a company’s bottom line can come in several forms. The most successful businesses start with a strong foundation of corporate citizenship, showing a commitment to ethical behavior. By creating a balance between the needs of shareholders and the needs of the local community, the company is able to establish brand and company loyalty. 

A company’s CSR plan should be aligned with the values and overarching goals of the company. Some businesses promote “give back days” to raise funds for specific charities that are important in their industry. Another way to increase CSR is doing a percentage of pro bono work that helps those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. A robust “reduce, reuse, recycle” plan would be perfect for an environmental engineering firm to lead the way in their industry while becoming more efficient when it comes to managing energy and resources. 

Katie Schmidt, the founder and lead designer of Passion Lilie, speaks of the positive impact CSR has on your company image, your brand and your motivation as a business owner. “What the public thinks of your company is critical to its success,” Schmidt told Business News Daily. “By building a positive image that you believe in, you can make a name for your company as being socially conscious.”

CSR Benefits to Your Employees

The best way to begin a new CSR initiative is to include your employees’ opinions on what is important to them. Create an internal team to spearhead the efforts and choose an organization or cause they care about. Keep employees in the loop of the decision process. Contributing to something your employees are passionate about can increase engagement and success. 

Of course, if the company has expectations of their employees, it also needs to be supportive with time available to volunteer or work on projects. Many companies offer days off specifically for volunteer work, often every quarter! Team events planned in advance also work well, or regular hours available to devote to legwork or planning. 

Once they see the impact they can have, most people are eager to do more. Often new teams are formed and new leadership is seen when working on projects outside the office. Employees learn to think outside the box, both in regards to who to help next as well as how to be efficient and effective. People begin to step outside their comfort zones and learn new skills which can be carried back to the workplace or into their lives. 

In fact, 72% of young workers entering the workforce today value jobs where they can make an impact. Businesses making a difference will attract more of the same.  Improving your company’s CSR will improve the culture of your workforce. Gone are the days where most employees retire from the same business 40 years later.

Corporate social responsibility changes the employee-employer relationship; rather than being just about a paycheck, people are working together to accomplish something greater than they could do on their own. This level of involvement contributes to happier employees and higher retention rates. With CSR initiatives, everyone wins!

CSR Benefits To the World

Whether your company’s passion is for veteran outreach to improve post-deployment job success or cleaning up the wetlands near your corporate headquarters, there are clients and businesses who want to work with you. Actively working with other companies with similar CSR initiatives builds partnerships that can have an incredible impact.

Garratt Hasenstab, Director of Sustainability at the Verdigris Group, says it best. “Those that we work with, both partner companies and clients alike, are actively engaged in our sustainability efforts and take pride in being involved with a company that is focused on the triple bottom-line of people, planet, profit.” A company’s CSR initiative doesn’t just focus on the results in the office. People love to work with companies who are making a difference, feeling part of something bigger simply through relationships and business transactions. 

That’s what you get when you partner with AnnieCannons. Our own corporate social responsibility centers around lifting survivors out of their situations and teaching them how to be amazing programmers. It doesn’t stop with education: our programmers are ready to go to work. They provide high-quality software development and data services with a superior customer experience. By hiring AnnieCannons, your company gets CSR impact with money already budgeted for software design and support. By hiring a designer with a cause, you can make a difference in many lives! 

You can also put your company’s volunteer efforts to work through AnnieCannons. Our 501(c)(3) customized volunteer and co-engagement programs allow your staff to use their skills (and develop new ones!) to make an impact through our SurviveTech Incubator program. We offer a range of technical, operations, and marketing roles that can be tailored to various commitments. With SurviveTech, volunteer work yields tangible results like mobile apps that help us build a world without abuse. 

All businesses have basic ethical and legal responsibilities. By going beyond with a robust corporate social responsibility initiative, you increase not only the bottom dollar but also the health and happiness of your employees and the local community. Choosing to work with other companies with positive CSRs will maximize your positive impact and you will be able to make even more of a difference. 

Winning While Female: How to make networking work for you

You’ve heard  that succeeding in your career is all about who you know.  Guess what? It’s true. Research backs it up: Women with a network of female peers and third-party contacts have 2.5 times the expected job placement level than women with predominating male-dominated networks. Understanding this, it’s no surprise that female coworking spaces like The Wing are on the rise. It’s becoming more apparent that to succeed women must band together to take on the business world. 

There are many extrinsic barriers for women in the workplace, but women also face self-imposed barriers especially when networking or selling their expertise. Women are far less likely to advertise their strengths and expertise as well as leverage their connections to get ahead. And often, women see networking as intimidating or even deflating. 

Because networking is integral to a successful career, women must break through these barriers to assert themselves as experts in their field and connect with others. Here are tips for making the most of your networking experience.

How to Host an Awesome Networking Event

Hosting your own networking event creates a unique opportunity for you to control the energy of the room. There are countless ways to make meeting new people less dreadful for everyone involved. Here are a few ideas:

  • Break the ice – Most networking events immediately jump to one-on-one conversations. This can be intimidating for the more introverted guests. Start the night off with a facilitated group ice breaker to make everyone feel more comfortable. Working together will build unity among the guests and introductions will help people determine whom they should talk to later.
  • Gamify the event – Make networking more interactive by turning conversations into a game. Create a game that attendees can do together or that compels attendees to meet each other. Turning networking into a game adds structure and makes the event less anxiety-inducing. 

A couple of ideas to consider: 

  • Scavenger hunt – Create a scavenger hunt that can be done in small groups. Sharing a collective goal is a great way for people to connect. 
  • Bingo – Create bingo sheets with each attendee’s name on it and create an incentive for completing a line. This can easily turn into a competition, so create a structure around how long each attendee needs to interact. 
  • Leverage the nametag – Connecting over a mutual interest is an easy way to create a bond with someone else. Anne Devereux-Millsor of Parlay House came up with the idea to have each guest share their favorite book. When they arrive, guests write their favorite book on their name tag – making it easy for others to strike up a conversation. This could easily be replicated with favorite podcasts, favorite musicians, or something related to your industry.
  • Encourage connecting afterward – The point of networking is to build connections that will extend past the event. We’ve seen some creative ways of encouraging that behavior during the event:
    • Asks and offers: On a whiteboard or large piece of paper, add “Ask” and “Offer” columns. Attendees can list things they need or are providing with their phone or email for others to contact them. 
    • One challenge: Ask people at registration what challenge they are struggling with. Then print those answers and hang them around the networking room. As people walk around the networking event, encourage them to add their email to the paper if they can help.  

Network like a Rock Star

Networking events can be overwhelming, but with the right mindset and preparation, networking events can be something you look forward to. Here are some ideas to make it work for you:

  • Shift your perspective – Networking doesn’t have to be a dreaded occasion. By shifting the way you think about networking, you can get a lot more out of the experience. Think of it as an event where everyone in the room has a shared interest or motivator, and everyone is just as nervous as you. 
  • Choose events wisely – There are thousands of networking events out there. Don’t lose your steam by attending ones that don’t resonate with you. Look for an event that speaks directly to your professional goals, with attendees you’d actually really want to meet.
  • Bring an accountability buddy – It’s easier to break the ice with new people when you have someone familiar around. Even if you and your friend are apart, it’s comforting to have someone you can go to if you need a little extra encouragement. But when you do bring a friend, hold yourself accountable for finding new people. Maybe make it a game with a goal of who can walk away with the most business cards.
  • Have an objective – As with anything business-related, it’s important to have goals that you’re trying to meet. Create concrete objectives like:
    • Have three conversations with people I’m drawn to in the room
    • Find at least two prospective clients/customers and schedule follow-up meetings 
  • Prepare for your conversations – Be prepared to ask questions that aren’t the normal “what do you do?” What advice are you looking for? What information might be valuable for you? Is there an idea you want to test and get feedback on?  Prepare these questions before you step foot inside.
  • Share your skills with others – You are an expert in what you do. You don’t need to downplay your skills to appear humble or approachable. Share your expertise with others, don’t hold it back.

Networking can be fun and useful with a little preparation and reframing of old ideas. What tips do you have for women looking to get more out of networking? How can hosts encourage connecting on a deeper level at their events?

12 tips from our female founder for starting a new business or nonprofit

The first few years of any business is a constant learning experience. Each stage of growth will pose new problems and push you to change and adapt. In the beginning, the business’s growth will rely solely on you and your decision making. These are exciting days, but without a team, the early days of a business can also be some of the loneliest and most stressful. 

We sat down with AnnieCannons’ founder, Jessica Hubley, to learn how to traverse the early stages of a startup. Hubley has vast experience as an attorney and a nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneur. The tips below will help you navigate founding, hiring and building a startup. 

Found

Founding a business is both exciting and scary. There’s a mountain of tasks to get done and every task will need your attention. Start by creating solid business foundations and working from there. 

  • File the paperwork. You’ll need to file paperwork to be recognized as a business. Forming a business entity changes your tax status and helps protect you from personal liability, among other benefits.. Find the state agency that handles business formations in your state to get more information on the different types of business entities and consult a lawyer to figure out which is right for you. 
  • Create a mission statement. You need to be crystal clear on the mission of your organization so that you’re able to repeat it over and over again to potential donors or investors. Your mission statement should be  a quick and easily digestible soundbite, no longer than one minute. It should encompass who you are, what you’re doing, and why it’s important. 
  • Ask for guidance. During this time you’ll be putting in long hours to see your organization grow. Reach out to mentors and other founders for advice and support, but be mindful of asking for people’s time for free and try to give something back for what you ask. You can learn a lot from those who’ve already been where you are, keeping in mind what the differences are between your circumstances and theirs. And by learning from other’s mistakes you’ll save time and money – two of your most precious resources.
  • Document your operations. Your operations set the groundwork for administrative processes, management, and workplace culture. Written operational guidelines mean you and your future team members will be able to follow specific procedures and processes when tasks come up.  This saves time, money and headaches. Start by creating step-by-step instructions for your most common work tasks as you hand them off to others, and be prepared to modify them according to what works well for others to achieve the same objectives. These tasks will likely need to be replicated and taught to new employees. Operations will be ever changing, so set a schedule to go in and make changes a few times a year. 

Hire

Hiring your first few employees is extremely exciting for a founder. You’ve grown your business to a point where you have enough work and capital to build a team. Now it’s time to learn how to hire the right people for the job at hand. 

  • Write a transparent job description. When you write a job description it should outline the hire’s role, responsibilities, and pay. Applicants should know exactly what they’re being hired to do and how they’ll be compensated in return. Some applicants won’t be willing to take the salary you’re able to offer so being transparent about the rate of pay will save you time and energy.
  • Hire learners and doers. In the early stages of an organization, you won’t have the capital to hire a senior-level employee. Most likely, your first hire will be a junior-level employee who’s eager to learn and execute their work. These employees will accept a lower salary in exchange for job development. 

When hiring your first employees you should look for learners and doers.

  • Learners are driven by a desire to advance their knowledge and excel at new skills. These people will go above and beyond to solve problems and find solutions. Learners are the people that make startups thrive because they will be the first to solve tough issues.
  • Doers don’t hesitate when asked to do something, they do it. These people don’t question if they can accomplish a task, they simply find the solution. Doers are integral to startups because their grit and tenacity get things done. 
  • Learn to manage. If you’re successful with your first hire, hopefully, you’ll be able to hire a couple more people and build a team. This can be a very difficult time for founders who find it hard to see things done differently than they did them. To grow, you’ll need to hand down specialized tasks to new hires and entrust and empower them to do the work. As a founder, you have to remember that employees will never do things the same way or be as invested in what you’ve built – even if they’re passionate about the organization and its mission. Resist the urge to micromanage and instead trust that your employee’s unique perspective will benefit the business. If you’re lucky, you’ll be hiring people who know even more about the task at hand than you do.
  • Outsource specialized roles. Most startups don’t have the resources to hire full-time marketing or finance employees. And that’s okay because these hyper skilled roles rarely require 40 hours of work a week when starting out. For tasks like this, consider hiring consultants. Consultants will have more experience in the specific field and free up your precious time. Ideally, you’ll find someone that’s taken by your mission and offers you a discounted rate!
  • Don’t put off letting go of a bad hire. Firing your first employee won’t be easy, but it’s important that you identify when it’s time to part and then do so quickly. Wasting time trying to put a square peg in a round hole will only cost you and the employee in the long run. Learn to understand when there’s room for growth or just an obvious disconnect between the employee and the organization.

Build 

At the beginning of a startup, you’re still building the product or service you want to offer the world. This is when you’ll start actualizing your big idea and building momentum with your audience. 

  • Create your minimum viable product (MVP).  An MVP is a concept from Lean Startup that stresses the impact of learning during new product development. You should focus on creating a first iteration of your product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of learning with the least effort. It might not be your end dream product, but it will get you to your first launch faster so that you can learn and iterate.
  • Build traction. To get customers and funders you’ll need to build interest in what your organization is doing and get feedback. Actively share your MVP with friends and potential clients. Incorporate that feedback in your product and continue this cycle. This hopefully will create a flywheel effect of supporters who will share with their network and help you grow.


The beginning stages of building a business is scary, but with the right preparation and guidance, you’ll come out stronger on the other end. Watch all of our tips on our new webinar for hiring and scaling your startup

Diversify your company by NOT hiring diverse employees

Similar to gender and racial discrimination in our society, the challenge with corporate diversity is based in social structure. The entire history of corporations has set us up for failure when it comes to treating all employees with equal respect and dignity. It is problematic to incorporate diverse voices into decision-making, ensuring they are heard, in typical corporate structures. 

The odds are even worse against the marginalized. Equal chances to win the game can only be expected with fair rules that are applied to all players. Corporate inclusion and social inclusion both require the structure to be rebuilt to offer equal chances to all. That kind of change is not easy, even if it looks simple on paper. Fortunately, there is a solution for corporations that offers incremental, profitable change, avoiding significant restructuring from the get-go. 

Supporting the current structure with diversity

Implementing a diversity initiative from the top down, with diverse executives, board members or managers, is a great catalyst for change but with considerable friction. For a company that has operated a certain way for a long time, changes to the day to day operations can come at a glacial pace, with ground-shaking consequences. Working for change from the bottom up can be seen as quicker, profitable and with significantly reduced friction. 

While running a law firm part-time, I have made an interesting observation: the way I am treated as a consultant attorney (as a vendor rather than as an employee) is fundamentally different than the way I am treated as an employee. As a consultant, my time is far more valued, even if as an employee I have the titles of Executive General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer. When dealing with the same individual in the same executive role, being my client versus being my boss results in two different levels of respect. As a consultant, I would never get asked to sort any mail, as my hours are much too expensive for that. However, as an employee I routinely got mail dumped on my desk. 

Rather than changing the corporate hierarchy completely, simply plugging in the diverse individual as a consultant reduces many of the friction points. This improves both the individual’s experience and the employer’s operations. 

Supplementing a corporation with diversity

Many American corporations are structured the same as they always have been, when managers and workers were predominantly white men with a wife at home looking after the children and the household. Work days began before school drop off and ended after children were picked up. Corporations didn’t need to consider any household needs because all family needs were of course provided for by the worker’s salary. 

With an office full of men, business hierarchy ended up looking a lot like the military. There was a man at the top of a pyramid, and layers of management reducing in power, with instructions and ideas passed down from the top. This worked for centuries of industry. Any practice in place for centuries will take quite some time to change, and any change will be difficult and resisted.

The greatest value of diversity is listening to the comments brought up by diverse individuals, and implementing their ideas. Corporate structure shows that if diverse people are brought in at the bottom or even the middle of the pyramid, acting on their ideas and goals is difficult. A corporation generally has not built their structure to hear those voices. And then consider how corporations have historically undervalued household work and child care – and that these diverse workers are handing them in addition to meeting employment objectives.

From the very start with AnnieCannons, we understood the challenges faced by our workforce of human trafficking-survivors-turned software developers. These women, predominantly women of color, were not going to thrive in jobs in the traditional corporate hierarchy of technology companies. Few had the typical college degrees, and many had arrest records from their time of exploitation. Even with the best programming skills in the world, they would be oppressed even more than other women in a traditional corporate structure. Rather than becoming part of the body of the corporation, they needed to become appendages, supplementing the company with their skills and diversity. 

Fortunately, we have been able to show those same corporations the value of our diversity-by-appendage model. Companies get the benefit of our programmers’ diverse ideas and perspectives as well as their technical skills – but not by hiring them. Instead, they hire us, AnnieCannons, as a consultant.

How to increase diversity by appendage

Naturally, and unapologetically, we ignored the standards for traditional corporate structure as we developed AnnieCannons. We focused instead on our programmers and their needs – what did the most marginalized individuals in our world need to thrive as software developers? We organized a business based on what workers need now, as opposed to what they needed in 1950 – just as an individual consultant of color does for herself.

We value the needs of our workers’ children just as much as our workers’ employment requirements, and invest in child care. We actively seek feedback from our workers before making big decisions. We give them the authority to structure their day and share their knowledge. We remove the typical old corporate obligation of “appropriate” clothing, interaction, and speech by focusing instead on their work quality. All these would be nearly impossible to accomplish in a corporation of over 100 employees, even over a decade – there are too many minds set in the old corporate ways. 

Regardless of a company’s individual hierarchy, when they hire us they gain the value of the diverse perspectives we’ve gathered. Whether we are building a simple website or a complex progressive web application, our programmers’ histories and ideas shine through. That is the quality of true diversity that spans gender, class, education, race, national origin, and family model.

The diversity appendage and traditional corporations are striving for the same outcome, to establish a more diverse voice within a company. As typically-structured companies see benefits (and profits!) from implementing diversity appendages, change can happen. They will see internal friction from increased diversity decrease and doors slowly opening to diverse hiring across all layers of the hierarchy. 

Meanwhile, female and minority workers enjoy a tailored work environment that is set up for their success. For example, with an A/B comparison of what workers with children can accomplish when provided with child care, and the recruiting value of such a benefit, it becomes easier to convince a board to embrace such a significant expense. Success with these initiatives will direct the development of evolved technology companies that equally serve workers and clients of all races and genders.

Wrapping it up

Rather than inject millions into a recruiting budget that will hire women and people of color into a corporate structure that isn’t set up for their success, consider hiring consultants to bring their expertise – and their diversity – to your products and services. This can be a way to hear a unique perspective and voice without causing undue friction to a long-established team. Utilizing a diversity appendage can quickly elevate and empower diverse candidates, and likely lessen friction if a consultant does end up an employee. Even better, their input will help executives establish a plan to successfully change the corporate structure and to truly diversify their entire hierarchy.

With such corporate growth, change can occur at all levels, hearing equally from all voices without fear or judgement. And then our world becomes a better, more inclusive, more collaborative place.