While the industry remains a male-dominated industry, these nine organizations are dedicated to making space for women in tech.
Organizations that advocate for women in tech are integral to the industry today. They’ve evolved to provide funding, research, and other support so that girls and women are able to overcome the gender-based obstacles they face in the industry.
Advocacy for women in tech has grown in recent years and many organizations are expanding their chapters to go global. There are open inclusion lists, specialized job posting sites, education hubs, mentorship programs and hackathons to support women in STEM. Here are nine organizations that are helping women in tech change the game.
This nonprofit was founded in 2007 by Adriana Gascoigne, a tech activist and the author of Tech Boss Lady: How to Start-up, Disrupt, and Thrive as a Female Founder. Girls in Tech’s goal is to empower, educate and mentor women in tech. She does this by offering coding courses, bootcamps, and hackathons that aren’t just for young women, but women of all ages. The key is accessibility. Girls in Tech started in San Francisco but has since gone global, with over 62,000 members in 33 countries.
In 2020, Girls in Tech launched a podcast, The Girls in Tech Podcast, hosted by Zuzy Martin-Aly. On this platform, they talk to women who shape our future and discuss their job board that lists which tech jobs are most urgent. Having space to talk about job access also inspires women to bypass the entire process and start their own companies. “A lot of women that were working in-house are now realizing that they can start their own companies,” said Gascoigne. “So, being a part of these events and meeting people from the business side of things are all important in building a business.”
Corporate diversity is at the core of Project Include’s mission, and they aim to give women in tech a fair chance. Project Inclusion is like a rulebook for diversity, ensuring underrepresented groups get treated fairly in tech. They work with technology companies to write a code of conduct, propose how to compensate fairly, and establish how to resolve workplace conflicts. By developing case studies that highlight diversity challenges, and data-driven recommendations they push corporations to make big changes. “Project Include is focused on data-driven solutions to give everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech,” says Founder, Ellen Pao. “We look at inclusion of everyone with an intersectional lens, comprehensive approaches across all activities in a company, and metrics for accountability.” Pao has also authored a book, Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change.
First founded by British math prodigy Anne-Marie Imafidon, Stemettes offers panel sessions, coding programs, and hackathons to teach women digital literacy. The group is aimed at girls and non-binary people between the ages of 5 and twenty-five. Stemettes wants to show them that they can play powerful roles in STEM. They offer intersectional programs, online events, and produce inspiring content on their social media channels.
The organization also runs the Stemettes Zine, which offers advice for women in STEM careers, like questions to ask a role model. “I try to show girls that technology is just a tool,” said Imafidon, who created the platform in 2013. “My advice to girls is to find your tribe – don’t try to go on this journey alone.”
Let’s face it: not everyone aspires to be an employee. FutureGirlCorp is for women in tech with dreams of having their own. The organization helps women find the right pathway to launching their own companies and offers help with things like funding and finding employees. FutureGirlCorp helps young women learn how to get investors on board and share examples of business models that actually work. They also tackle the not-so-glam side of business, including finding your market and learning how to reach customers.
Founded by British-Jamaican entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid, who also runs a beauty business, the goal of FutureGirlCorp is to empower young women to dream up big ideas. “I want to help girls understand that if they have an idea for a project it could be a global one,” she said.
We often hear that girls in STEM need role models, which is true. But on Wikipedia, one of the most visited websites in the world, only 18% of their biographies feature women. Despite the fact that women have been a vital part of STEM for hundreds of years, they are relatively absent from history. 500 Women Scientists organizes Wikipedia Edit-a-thons, where women learn how to create pages for women in STEM. Women also get to attend talks about why representation matters and network with a community of supportive peers. The co-founders, physicist Jess Wade and biologist Maryam Zaringhalam, even created a Wiki Education Course. In partnership with Wiki Education, the six-week Zoom training course produces experts in the process of developing biographies for women.
Wade and Zaringhalam explain their mission to normalize women’s achievements, “We do have the power to help more people see themselves in science – and on Wikipedia. We don’t have to wait for the next woman to win a Nobel Prize to share her achievements with the world.”
In 1987, computer programmer Anita Borg and twelve other women technologists co-founded the Systers Community. The goal was to create an email list for women working in the field of “systems.” Theirs was the first online community for women in tech. Ten years later, the Systers Community became the Anita Borg Institute, one of the earliest non-profits for women in tech.
The Anita Borg Institute plays a pivotal role to support women in tech and computing to connect and inspire each other. To this day, they help thousands of women find their voice in tech and work to amplify them. As Borg explains: “Around the world, women are not full partners in driving the creation of new technology that will define their lives. This is not good for women and not good for the world, we need to assume their rightful place at the table creating the technology of the future.”
What’s great about Girl Develop It is their education component for women working in STEM. They host affordable online courses that range from software development to machine learning and working with algorithms. Since its founding in 2010, Girl Develop It has expanded to 60 cities across America and shared their curriculum online to further their reach.
“It began as a call to action for women, by women, who were tired of the low representation of women in tech and wanted to make a difference,” says the executive director, Katie Nohe Franco. One of the board members, Erynn Petersen, said, “There’s an urgent need for the creators of technology to reflect the people who are consuming that technology. I am deeply committed to increasing the ranks of women and non-binary adults in technical careers.”
Better known as NCWIT, this Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit is a trailblazer. NCWIT started in 2004 as one of the first tech nonprofits to focus on diversity in the tech field. Today, they help leaders in public schools, universities, and corporations create change in the classroom and the boardroom. They offer community-rich programs, a diversity tool kit, and over 160 free resources, like e-books, lectures, statistics, and case studies to kickstart a career in tech. They’ve also launched a new webinar series called Advising for Future Ready Careers, which debuted in February. The NCWIT website answers the proposition, ‘Why we must act’ by saying, “In computing and technology careers, greater inclusion lifts individual futures and entire communities. Yet many groups are underrepresented. Too many voices, and their winning ideas, go unheard.”
The goal for Change Catalyst, an organization based in North Carolina, is to come up with solutions for inclusion and to remove barriers that women experience. They push for pay equity, suggest how companies can hire more women, and help women achieve work-life balance. The founder and CEO Melinda Briana Elper notes that intersectional identities are the voices that often go unheard. “It has to be not just about white women, but all women; women with disabilities, women from different backgrounds. When we talk about diversity, we talk about race, ethnicity, gender, people with disabilities, indigenous people, LGBTQ, and age.” On her weekly podcast, Leading With Empathy and Allyship Show, Elper hosts conversations with experts on strategies for actionable change.
Despite the amazing things these organizations are doing for women in tech, they are still underrepresented in STEM fields. According to McKinsey, the percentage of computing roles women have held has declined in the last twenty-five years. With just 15% of women in CEO roles, the gender gap is still hard to ignore. As more women share their experiences from the journey to tech, there seems to be a continued growth in advocacy, awareness and yes - change