7 women in Chicago tech discuss the city’s culture of inclusivity

by Alton Zenon III
April 22, 2019

As Chicago's tech industry grows stronger each year, so too do the efforts to make sure it's a more inclusive space for all people interested in working in it. In what was once a male-dominated field, the tides are changing as a wave of inter-company diversity initiatives and community-based, women-focused programs wash over the world of tech. One tech mecca at the forefront of this progressive movement is Chicago. 

We heard from women at seven local tech companies about what they think makes the Windy City a great one for women to pursue careers in technology, and what resources were helpful to them as they found their professional footing. 

 

Women at Grubhub pose for a photo

Grubhub is an online food ordering platform operating in over 2,000 cities nationwide that lets hungry people have takeout delivered to them from local restaurants. Senior Software Engineer Olga Dimitrijevic said the company, and its CTO in particular, are keen on providing resources to women interested or currently working in tech.

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech? 

Chicago truly supports women in tech, as the city offers an abundance of opportunities to launch your career, grow as a professional and belong to a helpful community of like-minded women. The city holds many conferences, meetups and organizations that champion women in STEM and provides mentorship for future software engineers and developers. With the number and size of tech companies based in Chicago, there are a variety of job openings, so women do not need to limit their career to a specific track or role.

The city holds many conferences, meetups and organizations that champion women in STEM and provides mentorship for future software engineers and developers.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

Grubhub’s Chief Technology Officer Maria Belousova is extremely supportive of women in technology and fosters programs to empower women engineers and increase the number of women in STEM. I’ve enjoyed Grubhub’s role in sponsoring events such as Girls Who Code, which introduces young women to programming skills in Swift and Python. Similarly, for women interested in leadership opportunities in tech, Grubhub encourages its employees to attend programs such as the Center for Creative Leadership’s Advancing Technical Women Seminar and the Chicago Women in Technology Conference.

I feel fortunate to be a part of an inclusive environment at Grubhub because I'm not only supported by upper management, but also by my colleagues and peers, which helps me grow personally and professionally. All of these experiences have inspired me to give back to the community, volunteer, and ultimately, positively impact the next generation of women in tech in Chicago.

 

Peapod staff posing for photo

Peapod Digital Lab’s online grocery and food delivery service keeps shoppers from waiting in line at the store and brings items right to their doorstep. Experience Strategy and Design Emma Castañeda said Chicago’s small city vibe gives the city a more communal feel.

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech?

As a native Chicagoan, the city has always been my backdrop for any life and career changes. The diversity of the city has allowed me to experience opportunities in wide-ranging industries, and the opportunities continue to grow as more companies choose to bring their offices into the vibrancy of the city. Chicago is unique in that it offers all the advantages of any big city player while still feeling like a smaller town.

Whether it's the online groups or my own colleagues, I have found great inspiration in feeling part of a community.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

Networking always felt as natural as ‘forced fun’ to me, but taking away the formality has really been the key. I've found that the UX industry is very supportive. Whether it's through online groups or my own colleagues, I have found great inspiration in feeling part of a community. 

And I love coming into an environment that doesn't feel like work, but more like a team that’s mission-driven and doing what's best for our customers.

 

The Marketing Store's Technical Delivery Manager Susie Jendro

The Marketing Store is a customer engagement agency that uses predictive analytics to create brand experiences for its clients. Technical Delivery Manager Susie Jendro said women have come to benefit from Chicago’s willingness to change at the pace of technology. 

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech?

Thankfully, there has been very little stigma around gender on my teams. Chicago is such a welcoming place full of open-minded, ambitious and eager folks. Our city has embraced tech with open arms, encouraging diversity and opportunity. Between the startups, tech headquarters, bootcamps and meetups, the opportunities for entering, advancing and networking in the Chicago area are abundant. These are things I believe have been a boon for women in tech in the last decade. I am currently sitting among some incredibly bright female teammates — feeling supported and grateful for our inclusive community and excited to see our presence continue to grow.

The opportunities for entering, advancing and networking in the Chicago area are abundant.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events, or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

I have had the wonderful support of many people and organizations in my career. The Marketing Store and our parent company HAVI have a diversity and inclusion focus, and I am honored to be a part of the leadership team that helps encourage conversations and forward movement in those areas. HAVI recently formed a Women in Tech team and I look forward to seeing where that goes. 

During my tenure at Ogilvy Chicago, there was a great internally-sponsored group that held forums with female leaders in and outside of the workplace. I also attended a RailsBridge Chicago seminar and was super impressed and inspired by their commitment to increasing diversity in global tech. SheSays Chicago has been incredible – they regularly host meetups and the professional and personal support I have received from members has been amazing. Lastly, I am proud to be a co-organizer for the Chicago HTML5 meetup and everyone is welcome to join us for our educational and networking events.

 

FTD Companies' UX Lead Alexa Senagore

FTD Companies is an international floral and gifting provider that also operates a number of additional companies like Shari's Berries, ProFlowers, Personal Creations and more. UX Lead Alexa Senagore said members of the Chicago tech community are happy to lend a hand to those in hopes of acquiring more knowledge or resources to better themselves professionally. 

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech?

Chicago is a growing tech hub, and with its growth comes the opportunity to connect with diverse talent in impactful, meaningful ways that might not be available in other markets. As an individual, there are so many opportunities to partner with local organizations to create job opportunities and nurture talent together. From my standpoint, local tech groups that are working hard to address inclusion in the workplace already exist in Chicago.

I’m always humbled by the amount of people willing to mentor or share resources to the wider community.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

Some of my favorites are IXDA Chicago, Chicago Digital Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup, Girl Develop It, the DePaul HCI Community, 1871 events and the Chicago Public Library’s workshops. I am so thankful that we have such amazing leadership from these groups in the Chicago area. I’m always humbled by the amount of people willing to mentor or share resources to the wider community. 

 

VillageMD team posing for photo

VillageMD provides physicians with tech tools like data analytics, care management suites and on-the-ground staffing support that will help them give optimal care to patients. Technology Director Liz Yuhas said Chicago is welcoming to women interested in moving into a career in tech, and creating strong personal networks can help facilitate that. 

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech?

I initially worked as a contractor for VillageMD, but the supportive culture and inspiring team had me hooked. I converted to a permanent role and relocated to Chicago, so I can easily say the reason I’m in Chicago is the great career opportunities the city provides for women in technology.

There are ample opportunities for career growth for Chicago women in tech. Chicago provides many job opportunities, networking opportunities, programming groups, bootcamps and training. While these opportunities give a sense of community to women already in the tech industry, I've found that the city is also full of resources for people looking to change careers. Access to these resources support the many women who enter the field later in their careers, and the city is very open to that.

I can easily say the reason I’m in Chicago is the great career opportunities the city provides for women in technology.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

My strongest sense of community as a woman in technology is here at VillageMD. The Diversity and Inclusion Work Group here at VillageMD works on projects like continuously improving our bias training for hiring managers and new hires. I’m helping build a foundation for new women in technology to grow their career right here.

Outside of VillageMD, I’ve been to a lot of events for women in technology. One that stood out was a MATTER event focused on increasing the number of women on boards of directors. That gave me another career goal I hadn't considered before and resources I can use in pursuing that.

Beyond formal programming and groups, there are a lot of great women in this city and I've reached out to ones I know when job hunting or looking for career advice. There are ways to tap your own networks, even if they don’t include a lot of women. It's important to be intentional and reach out beyond your immediate inner circle to be able to leverage the city’s resources for gender diversity.

 

Women a SpotOn pose for a group photo

SpotOn’s platform provides small and medium-sized businesses with payment processing capabilities and customer engagement solutions like loyalty programs and marketing campaigns. Project Manager Emily Shah said attending Techstars’ Startup Weekend, a multi-day event that lets techies and entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and solve business issues, was a motivating experience for her. 

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech?

Chicago is a naturally diverse city and is very focused on empowering women to grow and make a difference in the community. Chicago has many opportunities and programs like Girls Who Code, Woman in Technology meet-ups and other local networking events. These events are a great way for women to come together, share their goals and vision, and present to a group that encourages and challenges them to realize their goals.

People are very passionate about technology in Chicago and it shows.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

When I was in college, I participated in Startup Weekend. I was immediately inspired by the hustle everyone had to bring their startup ideas to life. For me, the developers resonated the most and I decided that I wanted to be in this industry. I have also been to 1871 and Built In Brew events and they have been fantastic ways to learn more about the industry. People are very passionate about technology in Chicago and it shows.

 

Collective Health's engineering team gathered for group photo

Collective Health offers a platform that lets companies simplify how they provide healthcare coverage to their staff and how employees manage that coverage. Software Engineer Hannah Porter said Chicago is bustling with community programs for women in tech, making it a stellar place to be a woman in tech.

 

What do you think makes Chicago unique as a city for women in tech?

There is a lot of great technical talent in Chicago and companies are taking note and establishing a presence here. The tech scene is still being defined, which means we have an incredible opportunity to shape what it looks like. Historically, women have been underrepresented in technical fields so the possibility we have in Chicago to not only increase the visibility of women engineers but also make a significant impact on this growing industry is exciting. 

The possibility we have in Chicago to not only increase the visibility of women engineers but also make a significant impact on this growing industry is exciting.”

 

Are there any local or company programs, networking events or spaces that have helped you navigate your career?

The Women in Tech group at Collective Health has been very impactful and empowering. The group connects all technical women here — those who are new in their career and those who are more seasoned — to create a unifying space where women can feel supported personally and professionally. Aside from this group, I keep an eye on Meetup or Eventbrite for upcoming local Chicago tech events, particularly for those who identify as women. A few recent favorites have been Women Who Code, Chicago Women Developers and events hosted by WeWork.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog167 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR
Internships
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Content
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Finance
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Content
new
Grubhub
Chicago
HR
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Operations
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Product
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Finance
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Operations
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Product
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Sales
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Developer
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Operations
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Operations
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Developer
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Marketing
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Sales
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Sales
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
HR
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Developer
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Finance
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Operations
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Sales
new
Collective Health
Chicago
Finance
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Developer
new
Collective Health
Chicago
Marketing
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Finance
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Product
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Developer
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Sales
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Finance
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Finance
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Marketing
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
Collective Health
Chicago
Marketing
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Operations
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Operations
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Finance
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Design + UX
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Developer
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Developer
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Operations
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Developer
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Sales
new
FTD Companies
Chicago
Finance
new
Grubhub
Chicago
HR
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Sales
new
The Marketing Store
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Operations
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Sales
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Sales
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Product
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Marketing
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Internships
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Product
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Product
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Collective Health
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Developer
new
VillageMD
Chicago
Marketing
new
Grubhub
Chicago
HR
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
SpotOn
Chicago
Developer
new
Grubhub
Chicago
Developer
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago
Operations
new
Peapod Digital Labs
Chicago

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to Healthtech in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Data Scientist Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Chicago