June 9th, 2014
fredhoch
June 5th, 2014
fredhoch

Women in Tech - BUILD It

There is a rising level of frustration in the community about the invitation that @techweekchi sent out early this week to promote its Black Tie Rave. First off, let’s be clear it was inappropriate. They’ve been called on it before and the message may not have gotten through. Given their apologies yesterday, I think it may have finally sunk in. But has it for us as a community?

Two questions strike me:

  • What have we learned as a community?
  • How do we create real change?

What we’ve learned:  There is no denying a gender gap exists in the tech community. There are hundreds of stories telling us what we’re missing, the growth that happens from including more women and the various ways to do so.  In fact, ITA wrote a piece this past fall – The ITA had a tech event and the Ladies Did Not Attend – and the message we put forth still holds true.

The bottom line is we say one thing and do/support/engage in another.

It’s time for all Chicago technology leaders to step up and take action.

How do we create real change? Demand the following from yourself and your community:

Inclusion.
 Burn the Boys Club. Whether it’s an informal dinner, meeting of VIP’s or a networking event, bring a woman.  Ensure you’re doing all you can to actively engage and support qualified women - who may not have access - and invite them to the gathering.

Constantly Commit.  Push to get more women involved. Commit to leveling the field.  ITA just brought on more female executives to our Board of Directors and we are building a stronger, bolder organization because of that commitment.

Publicly Support Women.  Women’s voices are desperately needed at all levels. Dynamic participation and encouragement goes a long way both internally and externally.  Speak up in your organization.  Demand change outside of it.  Use your leadership and power to create the change we need to see at all levels in technology.

Showcase.  Give females the recognition they’ve earned.  Not because you feel pressure to do so, but because they work hard and contribute to the success of your company and community.

Dialogue. Tell us, what else can you/we do? None of us hold all the answers.  We must come together as a community and continue to drive the success of women in the tech industry without pandering to stereotypes for support.

As Elise Fleischaker, an ITA Board Member told me “While I was disheartened and disappointed by the TechWeek campaign, I’m encouraged and proud of the response from our community. This doesn’t fly in Chicago. We now have an opportunity to advance the conversation regarding gender stereotypes and turn this into something positive.”

Let’s be clear – Chicago’s tech industry will not be as successful as I believe it can be without the active participation of female executives and leaders. 

We need to do all we can to ensure women in tech are treated, not better, but equally and given chances to drive forward. It’s a key differentiator for us and one we should embrace.

March 17th, 2014
fredhoch
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@FredHoch

Fred Hoch is the CEO of the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) and Founder of TechNexus, a venture collaborative. This blog contains his musings on technology with Chicago at the pivot.