In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2021, Women Talk Tech is dedicating the month of March to saluting young women in the tech sector.

In the first installment of this series, this week we are joined by Marley Melbourne, a 16-year old student, and the creator of Casual Zine. As a high school student and track athlete, Marley has always been interested in the arts but had yet to find a platform to express and share these interests. In 2020, Marley turned this interest into action with the creation of Casual, an online arts magazine which seeks to connect youth from all around the globe.

Marley began the creation of Casual when producing a final exam piece for an art class in 2020. As COVID-19 related lockdowns began, Marley found herself wanting to continue with the collaboration and creativity she was able to foster through the arts. Inspired by TikTok and other social media platforms, Marley decided to use her spare time in quarantine to produce Casual, an arts zine with the goal of keeping youth connected through the arts.

“I woke up every day and I had a really rigorous posting schedule on both Instagram and TikTok, where I tried to find the youth around the world who are interested in art, and who are interested in expressing themselves in a way that they are not always able to do … when I opened up applications for people to become writers or become featured artists and creators, we received 1,200 submissions.”

Casual Zine lives on social media, and for Marley, the use of social media platforms for good is increasingly important. Casual presents a space where young people from different backgrounds can connect and communicate in a constructive and positive way. Through Casual’s platform, Marley was able to share artwork as well as foster a community where conversations of social justice, advocacy, and human rights can be had in a productive manner.

“We spend a lot of time talking, at least in the Ontario curriculum in our health classes, about social media being an outlet for hate, an outlet for body image issues, an outlet for all of these really nasty things, which is definitely 100% true … However, I do feel like we should spend a decent amount of time learning about how social media can be used for good, for activism, and to connect with others in a really safe manner.”

Prior to the creation of Casual, Marley had always been interested in the potential of a future career in marketing or entrepreneurship. However, since working on the production of Casual this year, Marley has developed a greater level of interest for the tech sector as an option, which she, like many young women, did not always consider. For Marley, the image and the marketing of the tech sector itself does little to engage young women in the potential of tech as a viable career path.

Marley has noticed that when many tech companies produce presentations for high schools, they often bring a panel of female employees and create a presentation around the theme of “women in tech”. For Marley, this type of discussion does not feel authentic. She believes that if companies wish to expand the diversity in their staff, they should focus more on demonstrating the ways in which they are doing that, rather than creating specialized presentations as a means to attract women into the tech sector.

Marley continues to foster an environment of collaboration and creativity through Casual’s ongoing social media presence.

Tune in to this week’s podcast to hear Marley Melbourne discuss Casual, the use of social media for good, and the integration of young women into the tech sector.

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

Instagram: @casualzine

TikTok: @casual.zine