This past weekend was all women in tech and women who tech from the keynote start at the Philly Women In Tech Summit on Saturday to a screening of the documentary film “Code: Debugging The Gender Gap” at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday afternoon.
Where are the women in tech and startups?
A capacity crowd of 300 women gathered at the Chemical Heritage Foundation for the Philly Women In Tech Summit – and more than 200 women were waitlisted for this summit, now in its fifth year. The Philly Women in Tech Summit is an annual event that inspires, educates and connects women in the technology industry from the Mid-Atlantic region. They are supporting and growing a strong community of women currently working in technology as well as paving the way for adolescent girls who want to enter the industry. And the Philly Women In Tech Summit is more than walking the diversity pipeline in tech talk: all proceeds from the Philly Women In Tech Summit go to Techgirlz.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting middle school-aged girls interested in technology.
The theme of this year’s Philly Women In Tech Summit was inspiring women to take a chance – which is probably why a non-techie (me) was the opening keynote. As I noted in my remarks, I started my professional life as a lawyer, graduating from UBC Law School in 1991. Technology back in the wood-paneled and tufted-leather sofa office era was a substitute for the typewriter – and we all know what that means when you’re a woman. My vivid personal experience as a very junior attorney involved an around-the-clock weekend in the office preparing an emergency motion to be filed before the bankruptcy court on behalf of a client in the throes of a cross-border restructuring. As I worked alongside a senior partner in a conference room, the junior partner and senior associate came in to ask the partner a question. The question? Was Kelly busy or could she help them….
The partner glanced over his reading glasses, glared sideways down the conference table at the two men and replied: “If you two idiots didn’t arrange for a secretary over the weekend, then you’d better learn to type…..and fast. Kelly is not here to do your word processing.”
After that I experience, I knew I needed a backup plan to having a senior partner around who had my back. Plan B, which I actively pursued for the 11 years I practiced law was simple: be completely and utterly ignorant of all technology, such as word processing, photo copiers and other devices designed for office tasks. I can proudly say I cannot put together a spreadsheet. I am beyond hopeless at setting up a conference call (unless dropping calls is the desired outcome). I relied on the librarian when I needed online research conducted using WestLaw. No, not exactly the Plan B I’d recommend to my young career ambitious self in 2015.
Code is Mobility.
I delivered up three pieces of career advice to the women attending the Philly Women In Tech Summit:
Build Your Expertise
Build Your Network
Build Your Bank Account
The bank account career advice takes many people by surprise when I first say it, but look at it this way: it is not your retirement savings it is your Yes Me fund. It’s the financial resources that enable you to pursue your passion project, fund your venture, quit your job…. It is a fund that frees you to say yes to opportunity. A Yes Me fund has enabled me to angel invest, launch a startup accelerator, spend a year contemplating “what’s next” and now, pursue a book project. The Yes Me fund is the best investment I’ve ever made.
Money, funding and women -not surprisingly- were topics of discussion during my Q&A (as well as being an underlying theme of the film, Code: Debugging The Gender Gap). The tech press headlines are filled with headlines on the paltry numbers of women in VC and numbers of women-founded ventures being funded. But here’s why I’m impatient for change: women increasingly control the wealth in this country. As was noted in my interview for Women In Data published by O’Reilly:
- 45% of U.S. millionaires are women
- 48% of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women
- Women age 50+ control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth
- Women will receive 70% of inherited wealth over the next two generations
- Women control 85% of all consumer purchases
A little change in spending and investing habits would go a very long way, ladies, to shifting the opportunity dynamic. As I noted in a post on Medium:
For me it is a simple formula — start with your own pocket-book and change what you can control.
I can’t change the number of women in VC, but I can change how and where I invest, whether it is in early-stage companies founded by women or publicly-listed corporations whose corporate culture, from workplace policies to board composition, reflects the change I want to see in the world.
I am intentional in where and how I invest — including my time — where I spend my money and who I refer business to. I am one consumer, and one small angel investor but I’m part of a powerful 85% that moves markets, adds to the bottom-line and causes shareholder returns.
As are you.
Some final inspiration to encourage you to break through the glass, tech or investment ceiling or bust a stereotype or two, watch these three teen girls completely destroy a Metallica cover.