The tech industry is growing at a rapid rate, with new companies, organisations and products launching every day. As a result, there are constantly new job opportunities being created. There isn’t a definitive statistic for the worldwide tech workforce, although some people predict it’s in the hundreds of millions and always expanding.
As of the beginning of 2016, more than 6.7 million people work in the US tech industry alone, according to research from CompTia. In British capital London, there are 200,000 people in tech-related jobs. However, despite these large employment numbers, there’s a growing gender balance crisis.
Many people in the industry are worried that there aren’t enough women working in technology and that discrimination is still common. And statistics paint a dire picture. A study by the American Association of University Women claims that in 2013 only 26% of tech jobs in the US were occupied by females.
Deloitte predicts a similar statistic. It expects that less than 25% of worldwide IT jobs will be held by women by the end of the year. Looking at some of the big tech firms in particular, things get worse. Just 30% of Google’s workforce consists of women. This is 15% for Facebook and 10% for Twitter. Clearly, this needs to change, and American organisation Girls in Tech is trying to do that.
Founded in 2007 by tech marketing specialist Adriana Gascoigne, it’s a global organisation focused on the engagement and empowerment of women interested in tech. Girls in Tech aims to overcome the gender disparity in STEM fields and does this by running a plethora of workshops, competitions, conferences, hackathons and employment schemes right around the world.
“Girls in Tech gives women a platform and a place—that’s the first thing. But what we do best is we enable and empower women. We do this through a variety of programming: bootcamps, speaker panels, networking; conferences. Our goal is to arm women with the know-how and the confidence to enter STEM fields and succeed,” Gascoigne says.
Adriana is one of tech’s female veterans, having worked in the industry since the turn of the century. She’s held executive roles at companies like MxMatch and QwikCart, Ogilvy & Mather and SecondMarket, in addition to working as an advisor at startups like Indiegogo, SGN, Algentis, Democracy.com, Swyft, ImpulseFlyer and GUBA. She set up Girls in Tech to get even more women into the industry.
“I came to Silicon Valley in the early 2000s. I was the only woman at the startups I worked at. The only woman, aside from a receptionist. That’s a problem. Being sexually harassed, excluded, spoken down to and passed up for raises is, unfortunately, not a problem that only applied to me,” she tells us.
“I figured I couldn’t have been the only one. I set up a one-night networking event to see what the turnout would be. And the women came from all over, about 200 of them. I knew, then, that I was on to something. Girls in Tech was filling a void.”
A global movement
Girls in Tech may have started out as a single networking event in Los Angeles, but it’s grown to staggering levels within just a few years. It’s turned into a global movement. Currently, the organisation has a presence in 60 locations and more than 50,000 members. Adriana says that Girls in Tech gives women the tools and confidence to flourish in tech.
“We first launched in LA, then New York, then Kuwait. In our early years, we spread like crazy. It was so obvious that we were filling a need. We’re still growing, but now we have to be more structured and strategic about it. We have more than 50,000 members in 60 locations,” she says.
“We give them the knowledge to make it happen. We do everything from confidence workshops to innovation bootcamps. We work with women who have aspirations, and give them the tools they need to go out and make it happen.”
Adriana and her team have placed an emphasis on bootcamps and hackathons. They’re aimed at turning women into global change makers. “Our bootcamps are wildly popular. One of our key bootcamps is our Success Factors Startup Bootcamp. We cover it all – from ideation to iteration, testing and getting to MVP,” Gascoigne says.
“Bootcamps are half or full days and each chapter decides on what’s best for their local communities. Each chapter runs their own events, so they vary around the globe. Regarding our hackathons, we’re very excited to be scaling our efforts up this year. We’ll be launching “Hacking for Humanity” in the next month or so, it will be our largest hackathon yet, geared at solving global social issues like hunger and poverty.”
In Europe, Girls in Tech runs a competition called Lady Pitch Night. The last one attracted entries from over 178 start-ups in 22 different companies, although only five reached the finals. These include an SaaS-based tool for farming, a photography platform, two ecommerce sites and a game for children with ADHD.
The organisation isn’t on this mission alone, though. It’s backed by the likes of the Facebook, SAP, the UN and global governments. Gascoigne says: “We have the support of SAP Success Factors (we’re currently running a major twitter charity drive with them), Facebook #SheMeansBusiness, government entities around the world, the United Nations, Founder Institute, Tech Crunch and more.”
It’s fair to say that Girls in Tech has achieved a lot since launching, but Adriana believes it’s only scratching the surface and has a long journey ahead. “Our biggest success depends on the year and the perspective. In our early years, Marissa Mayer from Yahoo showed up at a number of our events. Launching in Kuwait was huge,” she concludes.
“Our recent launch in Australia was ground-breaking – the amount of support there, the 500 people who showed up to rally at the launch event—was amazing. We’re continuing to grow but now we’re getting smarter. We’re growing more strategically and with the right partners. A lot of good things lie ahead.”
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond