There are more women in tech professions and leading tech businesses than ever before. But the gender gap in science, technology and entrepreneurship is far from closed.
Today, only 26% of U.S. tech jobs are held by women, and only 22% of small business owners in the U.S. are women. Tech fields continue to be dominated by men, particularly when it comes to executive-level positions and founders. If all students in the U.S. take roughly the same amount of science and math courses throughout elementary, middle and high school, why are women so underrepresented when it comes to the workplace? And how does the underrepresentation of this critical population impact both technological and economic advancements?
Women are good for business
Recent data tells us that companies with a higher percentage of women leaders outperform those dominated by men. Women-owned businesses are more likely to maximize profit and weather recessions. When it comes to tech industries, this data confirms the reality that ideas and innovations improve when diverse perspectives are included.
Consider this: Cars have long been designed using crash-test dummies that are based on the average male physique. Is it any wonder, then, that women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash than men? If we only look to one majority group for innovations, we’re ignoring crucial ideas and solutions.
Technology is driving change in almost every industry, and the technology industry itself is projected to be the fastest-growing over the next decade. Without the inclusion of women, the tech industry will never meet its full potential.
If women are good for business, why do they face so many barriers to entry—particularly in tech fields?
Since women have been historically excluded from business and tech fields, it’s no surprise that women feel unsupported in these environments today. In places where men have long dominated, women are frequently subjected to gender stereotypes and institutional sexism.
With fewer women in the field, they find it difficult to connect with other successful women in the industry. This makes it hard for women to find supportive, like-minded role models and build the relationships necessary to succeed. A recent report about gender and the future of tech found that 48% of women in tech felt that the lack of women mentors was one of the biggest barriers in their workplace. This makes it difficult for women to access the knowledge and resources they need to start and grow their businesses.
Overcoming barriers for women in tech and entrepreneurship
How do we overcome these barriers and close the technology industry’s gender equity gap? SecondMuse Foundation is working to answer that question with GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Cities, an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women, transgender, and non-binary people in tech.
GET Cities builds pathways into tech for women and other marginalized groups not only by partnering with organizations that encourage women to pursue education and degrees in tech, but by supporting them along their professional journey with a network of sponsors, mentors and peers. These initiatives are part of GET Cities’ three-pronged approach, focusing on entrepreneurship, industry, and the broader ecosystem. GET Cities works to accelerate national change by starting at the local level. To date, they have established inclusive tech hubs in Chicago, Washington D.C. and Miami.
Propelling women entrepreneurs in the tech industry
The Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG), a GET Cities Chicago collaborative initiative, is a rolling cohort of accelerators, incubators, funds, and mission-aligned ecosystem supporters designing city-wide solutions and collective infrastructure to address gender and racial inequities for Chicago-based tech founders.
The efforts of this group have led to the creation of additional interventions like the Chicago Tech Desk, which provides grants for marginalized entrepreneurs to use toward their tech enablement needs; and the expansion of hands-on support and a gender focus for TechRise in supporting marginalized founders. TEWG also established the GET Seed Founder Cohort, co-designed with Chicago-based, women tech entrepreneurs to address the equity gap in seed funding—women and BIPOC-founded companies raise an average of $1.2 million in the early seed stages, while companies with teams made up of all men raise 300% more. The first round of startups in the GET Seed Founder Cohort included nine tech startups that received support in securing funding and connecting with investors, clients and corporate sponsors.
Additionally, GET Cities has recently partnered with Opportunity Hub on an employment training program aimed at expanding opportunities for Black women in the cybersecurity sector. Named the Black Women in Cyber Initiative, this initiative provides early exposure, expert-led training, certifications, and resources to Black women interested in cybersecurity, one of technology’s highest-growing fields.
Disrupting the way the tech industry works
Representation matters, and it’s not enough to provide opportunities for new and emerging companies–established organizations must commit to implementing best practices to improve gender equity within their own ranks.
To help with this, TEWG piloted the Chicago Venture Fellows, a four-month cohort program now hosted at Chicago:Blend for aspiring venture capitalists from underrepresented groups to gain experience, knowledge and networks. In DC and Miami, GET Champions addresses a cohort of forward-thinking tech leaders who are seeking to diversify their workforce and advance gender equity in their workplace. This cohort receives access to training, executive coaching, and invite-only hiring events featuring premier talent from historically marginalized populations.
“Our research shows that many organizations already have DEI experts on their team as well as ERG groups; yet, they still struggle with pay equity, hiring diverse talent, and maintaining a healthy work environment. We know leaders are looking to accelerate and strengthen that change within their companies, and this initiative is for them,” said Leslie Smith, National Director of GET Cities.
Creating the tech ecosystem of the future
The tech industry’s gender equity gap is a national issue and one that demands action. Tech entrepreneurs from marginalized groups are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing funding for their ventures and building connections. Ultimately, this means that the world misses out on the innovations and solutions these individuals can provide. That’s why GET Cities is dedicated to investing in women-founded companies and changing the tech ecosystem for the better.
Results show that we’re moving in the right direction: Founders involved in the GET Seed Founder Cohort raised $8.8M in 2022. Supporting women entrepreneurs is one of the most effective tools to revive growth, create jobs, and generate transformational economic impact.
The gender equity gap has endured for too long. By allowing it to continue, we’re depriving society of important ideas, which only hold us back. GET Cities is determined to move forward.
Learn more about our insights on building gender equity in the U.S. tech sector here: getcities.org