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Column: Why is tech such a boys’ club? (Part 2)

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Charleston Women in Tech leaders Christina Lock (from left), Peggy Frazier, Jen Boulware, Carolyn Finch, Andrea Williams and Nina Magnesson attend an event. (Photo/Thomas Heath)“Mentorship and inspiration are great motivators.” That was part of Chad Norman’s answer to addressing the lack of women in the technology field. “It’s important for young girls to see female leaders in the community doing tech,” the chief marketing officer of Catch Talent added.
As reported in part one, Norman, along with John Mistretta of Blackbaud, Marc Murphy of Atlatl, Chris Rickborn of BoomTown, Fred Robinson of Benefitfocus and Don Taylor of Boxcar Central, were all sitting on a panel discussion at a recent Charleston Women in Tech meeting titled: The Male Perspective on Women in Tech.

With men making up approximately 80% of the technology industry, I went to this meeting of more than 150 women, curious about the causes of this imbalance. What I learned could be summed up like this: “Houston, we have a pipeline problem.”

Rickborn shared: “I recently had this discussion with our director of talent. We look very hard and try to treat every open position the same (when it comes to gender diversity). It really comes down to a pipeline issue with us.”

Pipeline. We get to do something to change it.

“Studies suggest middle school to be the point when the divergence begins, and we find fewer girls interested in computer science,” Charleston Women in Tech Executive Director Carolyn Finch said. “This is why early exposure to technology is important. When there’s a lack of interest early on, young females then face confidence issues regarding their computer skills and are less apt to try to tackle tech at a later time.”
So what is this city doing to address that issue? 

I approached Laura Varn, a business executive and Liberty Fellow focused on women’s empowerment, for her thoughts.

“Mentorship programs for middle- or high-school aged girls could make a big difference in influencing them to pursue a future in technology,” Varn said.

She continued: “It is admirable that the Charleston Chamber of Commerce is partnering with school districts by offering Career Academies with a STEM focus. They can really jumpstart a young girl’s interest in this booming industry.”

One local school district has put its money where its mouth is and invested heavily in building the Laing Middle School of Science and Technology. The focus at Laing is on an “integrative STEM education” that breaks away from traditional teaching methods. 

Well, they must be doing something right. Laing was just named the top STEM middle school in the country. Now, we just need to figure out how to replicate their success.

Any other ideas?

I have one. How about we bring Girls Who Code to our city? They’re a national nonprofit that offers free summer programs and after-school clubs for female teens to learn coding. Anyone want to take that on? It certainly might make tech less of a boys’ club.

Thomas Heath, CLC, is a business coach, strategic advisor and founder of Thomas Heath Coaching. Have a question? Planning a great startup event? He loves to respond to our readers. Contact him at Thomas@ThomasHeathCoaching.com or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/AskThomasHeath.

Startup Roundup
An insider’s view into Charleston’s Startup community.
Curated by Thomas Heath

If you’re looking for a calendar to find the best startup, tech, digital and entrepreneurial happenings around Charleston, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are my picks for the most worthwhile events coming up:

One Million Cups
9-10 a.m. May 17, 24, 31
Think of this as Shark Tank, without the sharks. Each week a different entrepreneur presents about their startup business for feedback on how to grow it. The Charleston chapter is known for its nurturing nature and great connections. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, 1505 King St. Extension, Suite 110, Charleston. Free. No registration required.

Charleston Women in Tech
5 p.m. May 24
At their May meetup, Founder Carolyn Finch and other dynamic leaders from the local tech world will gather to make connections, talk code and hear from Halle Tecco, an angel investor and adjunct professor at the Columbia Business School. This is a great event for female students and professionals interested in connecting with other women in the tech industry. BoomTown, 1505 King St. Extension, Suite 101, Charleston. $5 students; $10 professionals. Register: http://bit.ly/2oEtML1.

Pitch Breakfast
9-10:30 a.m. May 25
This inaugural event, which started in Charlotte, provides startups with a chance to practice their most crucial pitch in a challenging, but supportive environment. Founders will have an opportunity to deliver their pitch to a panel of investors to get expert insights and feedback on improving their pitch, and they do it in front of a live audience. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, 1505 King St. Extension, Suite 110, Charleston. Free (includes breakfast.) Register: www.pitchbreakfast.com/charleston.

Startup Grind
6-9 p.m. May 25
The Charleston chapter of this global community hosts monthly startup events to teach, inspire and connect entrepreneurs. The meeting starts off with food, beer and networking, followed by a “fireside” chat with a successful entrepreneur who shares their story. This meeting will feature Belinda Hare, the co-founder of Launchpeer, a web and mobile application development agency focused on startups. Launch Pad, 174 Meeting St., Suite 200, Charleston. $10, but use code CRBJ25 for 25% discount. Register: startupgrind.com/charleston/

 

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