Think there aren't many women in tech? Think again
28 January 2015
WTF went on at 1871 last night?
About 200 women (and a dozen men) showed up for the launch of Women Tech Founders.
If you're surprised there might be 200 women in tech, or women who are interested in founding companies or who already have done it—you haven't been paying attention.
More than a dozen female founders—from Jill Salzman (Founding Moms) to Desiree Vargas Wrigley (Give Forward)—shared stories about launching tech startups.
As Salzman summed it up, "There is a lot of chatter about supporting women founders and women in tech but not a lot of people actually doing it."
The idea grew out of a gathering of female tech entrepreneurs last year, says Sharon Schneider, founder of Moxie Jean, an online marketplace for buying and reselling children's clothing.
Schneider credits Terri Brax, founder of TeacherCare, with the idea for organizing the group.
They got nearly 250 RSVPs for last night's event, which filled the auditorium at 1871. It's partly a way for women to network, talk about common challenges and simply see how many peers they have in the city.
"We know there's pent-up demand," Schneider told me.
Although the initial event was as much a pep rally as anything, Schneider said she isn't sure yet what form it will take. "We're just getting people together," she said. "We'll have to find out what sort of things they want."
The group hopes to meet quarterly.
Schneider, who is active in Chicago tech and entrepreneurial circles and considers herself plugged in, said, "I was surprised how many women in town who I didn't know about."
Among them were Corielle Heath and Ellie Day, co-founders of a new e-commerce startup liftUPlift.com, and Andee Harris, a veteran tech entrepreneur who co-founded Emerging Solutions, an enterprise software-services firm launched in the late '90s that was sold in 2011 to Emtec.
"There's a lot more momentum for women in tech," says Harris, who now is head of sales at startup Syndio Social, marveling at the crowd. "There are more women in STEM. There are more people supporting tech. It's much easier to start a tech business today. There is a lot more going on today than just a few years ago. It's great."