By Zoë Wentzel, @ZoeWentzel
Here is your challenge – name one female CEO of a major tech company.
Chances are your mind ran through Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and maybe a few lesser-known names. Any women come to mind? According to Dow Jones, only 6.5 percent of privately held companies having a female CEO, so, probably not.
As many Reno startups begin to move forward, it is necessary that women firmly establish their place in the Biggest Little City’s tech community. Not only would it pave the way for women in technology as a whole, but it would also add an edge to the Reno tech community that would differentiate it from fellow cities similarly experiencing a technology boom.
A study done by Dow Jones in 2012 found that 83 percent of startups in their developing phases had no female employees, which may have something to do with the fact that in the same year, Forbes reported that only 20 percent of women receive degrees in computer science.
Growing up in Seattle, and being born in the 90’s, I have been raised around a tech culture that started small and now dominates most of the city. I have an uncle who works at Microsoft, and I am sure if someone surveyed a handful of adults in Seattle a large percentage of them would have a friend or family member who works or worked at a local tech company. Those same people most likely would name men as the people they know. For example, The Guardian reported in April of 2014 that only 18 of 120 senior managers at Amazon are women.
Despite national demographics working against them, Reno women looking to enter the tech world have budding resources to help them out.
Girlmade is perhaps the most influential resource, which serves as an accelerator for female run businesses and start-ups in Reno. Beyond the empowerment angle of Girlmade is a solution to a very real problem. CEO Ashley Jennings writes in her biography, “Y Combinator, one of the world’s most successful accelerator programs, only accepts 4 percent women on average.”
Girlmade is the number one reason why Reno should hone in on closing the gender gap. For an accelerator to be locally accessible and actively working to fund and mentor women-led and dominated projects is significant. The startup community is rather young in Reno, and because of that, there is still a lot of room for women to find their place. An accelerator with a female focus holds a lot more weight in a younger startup community versus a place that’s already established, like Seattle.
By breaking barriers at the beginning, Reno has the opportunity to threaten the old, and usher in the new.
Not only has Girlmade focused on supporting local women looking to create a business of their own, but they also are targeting young girls who will make up the next generation of startup geniuses. Supporting and educating young girls is crucial in supporting a gender gap change. If you do not think you are welcome in a community, why join? Events like Girlmade’s “Girl Empire” are important in creating encouragement for girls as they move into college and decide where it is they want to go in life.
In addition to Girlmade, the Reno Collective, a communal workspace for up and coming startups and businesses, hosts a program known as “Women Who Code” which focuses on empowerment and providing women with resources to further educate themselves in the tech world. Currently, “Women Who Code” events and programs are held in only 19 cities across the United States. This is an important resource in strengthening the power of female techies. It opens up technology to more than those who already know it all, and places power into the hands of women who are seeking it.
It is necessary that women find their place in the world of tech, but more crucial for the members of the Reno startup community to embrace the concept of closing the gender gap in this line of work.
It very well could be what sets Reno apart from the rest.