Where Are The Women in the Chicago Tech Scene?

August 12, 2013

When I founded my company, DigitalGroundUp, over a year ago, I wasn't trying to make a statement. I'd never seen myself as a founder, and it wasn't a position I'd been looking to be in. But in the year plus since, I've found myself facing this quiet undercurrent of a problem: the lack of women in the entrepreneurial space, paricularly as founders, CEOs, and even as C-level employees. 

It's common knowledge that men outnumber women in the technology space. And while 1871 claims to have 30% of companies with either female founders or female members on the founding team, companies with women in the founding team is very different from having a woman running a company. 

I know a lot of people want to pretend that sexism isn't a problem in this space, but it is. We can not talk about it and watch those once-enthusiastic college graduates become frustrated in the wake of a world where their voices aren't heard and they don't see many female leaders, or we can actually do something and say loud and clear: "We're here, and we're not going to fail!"

I'm writing this because I was aghast that only three female founders (myself included) attended the Founders Card Happy Hour two weeks ago. It was a very well attended event, so there were more than 50 male founders. But just 3 women. There were more women working at the event (the two hostesses, the photographer and a bartender were all women) than there were at the event. That's just sad to me, and it's not the first time I've encountered such a scenario within the Chicago tech scene.

I'm grateful for the presence of organizations like MSTech and Women 2.0 that are filled with great groups of women in the technology space, but eventually (and sooner rather than later in my opinion) we have to have a strong presence in non-gender specific groups too. We have to show up at events and publicize our successes. Get out, be loud, be proud, and show that there's nothing wrong or strange about a woman running a company, founding a company, or both. "We're here, and we're not going to fail!"