Why is it such a rarity to see women on panels who have launched startups or are in tech? Why do many conference organizers feel the need to host panels or even entire conferences that are positioned as “women in tech?” Can’t organizers do a better job of having more gender balanced panels and perspectives in the first place? This was actually one of the questions that were posed at the DC Tech Meetup tonight. And it’s always a tough question to answer. In an ideal world, women and men would not grow up being taught traditional gender roles that help shape their lives and how they view men and women. In an ideal world:
- Conference organizers and investors and women in the space would be networking with each other often.
- Women would not make $.77 to every $1 a man does.
- The Fortune 500 list would not be comprised of 489 men and only 11 women.
But that is not exactly the world we live in. So for now, “women in tech” panels, and “25 Women Run Startups to Watch” lists are something we need. They highlight women that are #crushingit, but that many investors, conferences, and tech reporters may not know about yet. But we also need to be thinking about the future of tech. What are we doing now to ensure that the next generation of techies is filled with women’s perspectives and innovations?
Yesterday I published an article on Fast Company about the need to foster young girls' interest in tech. We need teachers and parents to help keep girls interested in tech and ignore stereotypical gender roles. We need more programs like the Aspirations Award to recognize young women in high-school for their computing-related achievements and interests and where colleges award winners with scholarships. Over the last 5 years, the National Center for Women and Information Technology has drawn interest from nearly 6,000 young women that self-identify as interested in careers in computing and who are looking for college scholarships. Did you know that tuition and living expenses today can cost more then $50K a year? That’s crazy. So I have teamed up with Danny Brown, Geoff Livingston, and Julie Pippert, to help raise money for the Aspirations Awards. We want to see more women pursue technology and get college scholarships so they can afford to actually attend. Chip in $20 and help empower the next generation of women technologists and founders. You could very well be funding the entrepreneur who squashes Facebook. And Network Solutions and its Women Grow Business initiative are doing a matching grant for the next $1,000 in donations!
If you would like to learn more about the six women who demoed their product at the DC Tech Meetup, check out their websites below.