An Idea Turned to Reality
Once upon a time in 2016 a millennial developer had an idea… how about a “Code Mesh” for women? After attending local and national conferences such as Grace
Hopper and Code Mesh… she inspired a group of local tech event pros to throw an all tech conference for women!
As we approached that event in September 9, 2016 the national “narrative’ was in a whirlwind as it seemed the women’s movement was at an all time high! The
demand for equality was center stage and women were redefining what was possible.
What started out as a small conference idea with a goal of 100 women, grew to >300 within a few months. The
#WeOwnTheFuture Conference was a smash! Women were excited and ready to participate in the beginning of a new era where women were supported in technology careers and were no longer alone.
A mission was born: Columbus Women In Tech the organization.
Not only was there to be an annual women in tech local conference to give the local community a chance to connect in solidarity, but the collective passion grew to demand more! We found the mission growing rapidly from just a conference to a cause.
The tech community and local companies were “all in” on the cause and wanted to ensure that that was clear what was the most essential part of the mission… the impact to increase the number of women in tech. Thus, a non-profit was born! We officially embraced the movement into an organizational mission and formed “Columbus Women In Tech” a 501(6)c
Ideas ran rampant as we focused on not only the next conference for 2017 – #Sheros #SmashTheGlass but what else was possible. We could ignite change and launch programs and events that would accelerate the development of Columbus women in tech. We shot to max out our facility and succeeded with over 500 women. We sold out over capacity! (no firecodes were violated in this process- swear).
Trying to harvest the passion and focus on how we differentiate what we do compared to other organizations. What do we do differently than other groups that support women in tech?
A Unique Tech Community Sets the Stage
Columbus has a unique wholistically connected technical community, passionate about learning and networking – due in part to community leaders like Ben Blanquera founder of TechLife, Alladin Ghodir of IT Martini, Bart Murphy and Jen Bleen of COHAA, CIO Forum with Angelo Mozzoco and Doug McCoullough.
Technical bootcamps like We Can Code It and Tech Elevator, fuel new talent as well as participation and support from local companies like CAS, JPMorganChase and Nationwide, and consulting firms like ICC, Pillar, Improving Enterprises, and HMB.
This unique blend in our local technical network allows the fruition of user groups and technical knowledge to flow freely in our community. To focus on women was just the natural extension of what all these great contributors have done for our community so far. This is part of the reason why Columbus, OH won the Smarter Cities grant of $50M plus additional $550M ancillary funds. It’s hard to measure exactly how this unique social structure supports these types of results – yet we all inherently know for certain the unique factors that make it a success.
Questions were raised how we can help other communities untie their social capital, bridge the networks, and empower people to rise up and spread IT as a movement to increase the number of women in technology?
getWITit.org was born
- What is the best model to impact change? What can we do differently that anyone else?
- Seriously? The number of women in tech is DECLINING!! So what we’re doing so far just isn’t working.
- How can we rebrand careers in tech to women, make them both attractive and accessible?
- How can we repeat the type of community experience to other cities by repeating unique factors that make us successful?
- How can we make this truly about the benefits to the local economy and not just a problem for women?
Number one: It’s just got to be FUN!, is if it’s not fun people aren’t going to want to do it, talk about it, or do anything about it. Nothing is more fun that a PUN! So our name applies punnery with a twist of modern slang to employ the fun factor.
Number two: it has to apply a proven formula for success. Like Alien Colonization, for example.
Aliens are often trying to find a new way of life, and opportunity for the betterment of their civilization and have things to offer like superior technology and knowledge. Just like in the movie Arrival, It is assumed the visitors are a threat but actually came to help.
We often say “There’s got to be something out there” and toy around with ideas of Alien attacks. Women often feel like they are on own planet in the tech industry or better yet, outside the tech industry looking in. When they land in the industry, they are not always received with open arms. The professional nursing is dominated with 92% women, it is clear that women like to help and enjoy human interaction. What can tech gain from the capacity for women’s natural skills?
Effectively managing the narrative in the community amongst pillars like government, academia, women’s interests, media, professional and women’s interest groups, we can effectively transition this change.
Number three: Men must be invited and feel safe to be at the table to help solve the issue. There has to be responsibility and accountability, else resistance is futile.
There are certain factors for spreading successful change or adaptation. It is generally not overnight, and the conversation has to be had at all levels.
Each community is different and has key pillars of influencers, and communicate differently. Each economy has a unique talent pool and companies generally dive in their local pool for resources for their immediate needs.
We believe that by employing these unique factors with a local conference and support for change management in the community, we can impact the drastic declining number of women and fill the pipeline with an equal balance of talent that enables each community to feel the economic gains powered by this movement.