The Chicago Tech Scene is Different
Recently, there has been a bit of a dustup in the Chicago tech scene. Every year around this time, TechWeekcomes to Chicago. People come from all over to attend, hot companies showcase and people network. It’s good for our tech scene. This year, TechWeek sent out an email that was demeaning to females.
I am the father of two daughters. One works for a startup company in Chicago, and the other interns at another startup, Dough. I didn’t get either of them their jobs. They networked and found them by themselves. The Chicago tech scene is hot enough that anyone can come here and find a job at a startup. Virtually all the companies I am invested in are looking for talent. You can go to the website, BuiltInChicago and look job postings for startup job after startup job.
There are parts of the world of work that are tougher for women. There are things that they have to worry about and deal with that I don’t. My wife has a marketing degree from the College of Business at the University of Illinois. She’s sharp. She was a top salesperson with Ortho Pharma when she was working. She dropped out to raise our girls. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Who better to raise your kids than an intelligent college grad that loves them? But, for women like her it’s awfully hard to find their way back into the work force. The only options are minimum wage jobs. Having kids and dropping out is a black mark. She is working with female entrepreneurs now that are trying to start businesses.
Today, Gotham Gal highlighted the opting out phenomena on her blog. She dropped out of the work force to raise kids too. Now, one of her daughters is doing a research project on it. A while ago, I created a hackpad that lists support resources for women.
Chicago is unlike a lot of tech scenes. We have a lot of active and extremely capable female founders, and we have a fair amount of minority founders here. I have backed both. I don’t think anyone planned it. It just happened. The angel group I co-founded has always had a large amount of women. Our current Managing Director, Karin O’ Connor is a woman. We are a better group because of them.
Those women and minority founders and leaders aren’t getting special treatment. They are damn good and they are earning everything they are getting. Maria Katris wrote a really good post that I agree with.
Entrepreneurship is getting white hot in the US. By 2020, 45% of the world wide workforce will be contingent, unattached and solopreneurs. As we transition from an industrial economy to an information based economy, we are starting to see politics come into the community. Rev. Jesse Jackson recently was in Silicon Valley trying to get more minorities on boards.
I don’t like that trend. We don’t need quotas or check the box diversity.
Entrepreneurship is merit based. All the labels that are used to divide people get thrown out the window. Ideas and execution matter. That’s why I love it, and love working with all kinds of entrepreneurs from all walks of life. We have some tremendous role models in Chicago for budding female entrepreneurs. We have some tremendous role models for minority entrepreneurs too. Too many for me to name in this post. If you are a female and want to start a company, you can get funded here. Chicago is probably the best place for you to startup.
I am really proud of the way the Chicago tech scene handled this. I am also very happy to see the open, non-accusatory, constructive discussion that is happening on blogs, comments, Twitter, and in the halls of startup offices.