Where are all the DC women in tech? I went to a panel today on “power” women in tech and the path they took to get there. These discussions are always interesting and I gain a lot from listening about how professionals I admire have progressed in their careers. But, there is a common, somewhat disturbing trend at these events that there really are not many women in tech there. Here in DC, I often find that when I try to surround myself with women in tech, this is the case.
First, most of the women on the panel were not technologists. One was a non-engineer coder, but the rest of the panel was made up of a lawyer, an operational exec, an executive coach, a media company exec and so on. Now this panel of women were all leading or working at tech companies so maybe I’m splitting hairs, but its tough to find female techie geeks in this region. Even more interesting is the crowd that usually attends these events – which today included the typical selection of bankers, marketing people (like me), lawyers and other service providers to the industry. I gave up membership in a professional group for women in tech a few years ago because their events were largely the same. I met a lot of interesting people there but very few of them were relevant to my day to day work, and I met zero potential clients there.
A few years back, I went to a She’s Geeky event hosted here in DC by some women from MN and met a ton of cool women doing amazing things in the tech space. At that type of meetup, the majority were hard cord techies, and I was the anomaly. But, I loved the vibe there and I learned a lot from having conversations about the latest trends, apps, etc to hit the street. This is the community I crave, female or not – so where do these women lurk? And, more importantly, why, when business organizations put on a panel like Power Women in IT, can they not find them either?
On the flip side, I rejoined a group recently called Women in Energy and Environment. Every meeting is packed full of women at all stages of their careers who are directly involved in the industry. I learn a tremendous amount about industry issues, trends and policies at these events, then at any tech-oriented event in the region. I would love to find something equal on the tech side, but, in this region, its harder to unearth. Back in my Valley days, my networking was mainly with other tech marketers, which were in abundance, as is to be expected. But, all of us in tech marketing and PR, considered ourselves tech geeks. In DC, this is just not the case. Even those women who belong to organizations with the word tech in their names, will often strive to correct the impression that they are “in tech.”
When I look at how a smaller market like DC aims to become a tech hub worthy of attention, I think it must first start with the culture. If groups of those in the tech sector do not consider themselves “in tech” and if those held up as elite are more on the fringe of technology, it will make it much harder for the region to reach its potential as a tech hub. And, so I keep on with my search for like minded techie women in the area, especially those at the top of their careers. If you are out there, let’s grab some lunch!