If you live in Chicago and are part of the tech scene then you probably read Katherine Raz’s op ed piece for Crain’s last week. I’ve read and re-read (probably about 20 times) to really dig deep into what Raz was saying. A lot of people jumped down her throat immediately saying she was insulting women in tech. That’s not what she meant, but with such a complex issue she couldn’t address EVERYTHING.
In my experience, there are a lot of women working in the tech industry and I believe women’s presence WILL continue to grow in the tech sector, if women want it to. For example, in 2009 all but two of the 19 U.S. high-tech IPOs in 2009 had at least one female officer. Compare that to 1988, when only 4% of the 134 firms that went public in the U.S. had women in top management spots.
Clearly, female presence in the tech sector has grown but what we need to focus on is how to keep this momentum going and how to engage more women (specifically in the Chicago area) to enter the tech sector without hesitation or fear. I think we need to make tech attractive to women again and show them that they have support. A few ways to do that are:
1. Create accelerators that focus solely on developing women developers
There are programs like the Starter League, which has attendees from all over the world. Start looking into programs as such to gain a competitive edge. However, such programs should also take a chance and encourage women but creating programs that would focus on females who want to learn how to program. Many may not take the opportunity but at least you can say you tried right?
Also encourage young girls to take advantage of programs expose them to tech such as Black Girls Code or Digi Girlz. If you really want to start increasing the presence of women in tech, start exposing tech to girls while they are young.
2. Increase networking opportunities with fellow female techies
Organizations like Ms. Tech and Women 2.0 are doing wonderful events all the time to get fellow female techies to meet up. Let’s start taking advantage of these groups! Stop pretending “you’ll go next time”, start going NOW. I could even take it a step further and show say to show that you really support woman of tech let’s accommodate working mothers and provide child care at certain events. We need to ban together and look out for one another.
3. Take advantage of the new work environment
Currently, there are more women in college now than men, and more women than men in the workforce. The idea of “traditional workspace” is out the window at this point. With the creation of virtual offices and other non-traditional approaches to business women should take advantage! More women need to believe that instead of giving up your dreams of balancing a family and work, take advantage of finding a company that has all of these things or finally taking that risk and creating your own company.
4. Showcase our successful women techies
Last week in Chicago there was an event at Crain’s Chicago called Tech Talk Live where a panel of female techies discussed their role and place in tech. Although I wasn’t able to attend I did read live tweets from the event and it was beyond informative and real. We need to have more events like this to showcase that YES! We are women of tech and we exist and YES! We are here to stay.
Instead of arguing over if there’s a lack of females in tech in Chicago, or nationwide, let’s start creating solutions and putting in place programs, events, whatever that will encourage, support, and increase women in tech. I understand there are other factors involved with women like family demands, money, etc, but we can begin by giving women opportunities. Once we have opportunities in place, we can address the additional factors to support women and help them accomplish their goal. So women, if you really want to, we can slowly start taking over the tech world, one company at a time. What will it be women?
What are some reasons you think women are not present in tech in Chicago, or anywhere else? How do you think we can improve the presence of women in the Chicago tech world?