By Parisa Bazl and Josh Calixto, Infor
The more entrenched a problem is, the more convoluted it can be to solve. We see this all the time in enterprise software. “Modernize this ERP platform” isn’t just a task, it’s an epic undertaking that demands the hard work and honest input of hundreds of people. In a similar vein, it’s hard to approach a problem as deeply rooted as gender inequality in the tech industry.
Adriana Gascoigne, CEO and founder of the trailblazing women’s nonprofit group Girls in Tech, is above all things a problem solver. In one of her first jobs at a tech startup, she noticed that even as the staff grew in size from 10, to 30, to 50 team members, she and the company’s receptionist remained the only two women in the entire office. “I think there was a lot of laziness and carelessness, and there wasn’t an interest in bringing diversity and inclusion to the forefront,” Gascoigne explains.
In 2007, she decided to take the problem into her own hands, producing the very first Girls in Tech event. The meeting brought together more than 200 Silicon Valley women to discuss the important work needed to make the industry more inclusive. According to Gascoigne, it “opened up an amazing can of worms,” and soon, she began receiving emails from women around the country who wanted to become part of the group.
Since that first meeting almost a decade ago, Girls in Tech has grown into a global group more than 50,000 members strong, with more than 60 local chapters that hold community events and provide resources to empower, engage, and educate women in the tech industry. With a whole calendar of events planned every year, the group attempts to address gender gap issues from different angles.
This year’s second annual GIT AMPLIFY: Women’s Pitch Night competition, held in San Francisco, helped empower other female problem-solvers by giving them the chance to make their business ideas a reality. Echoing Gascoigne’s original problem-solving mindset, a majority of the companies showcased were borne from the desire to help alleviate social issues. One of the businesses proposed would create an easy way for medical researchers to test and identify endometriosis (which often goes undiagnosed), and another would empower child psychiatrists to help parents identify autism or learning challenges early. The winner, Pandia Health, makes birth control accessible to women who are prevented from otherwise obtaining it, whether due to busy schedules or social pressure.
“Women innately want to give back,” said Gascoigne. “They want to help the communities that they are in, and around the world.”
With its grand prize of $10,000 in funding, as well as laptops and six months of free office space for the winner, AMPLIFY embodies a tangible, active approach toward helping women break into the industry and climb the ladder. To Gascoigne, this is the fundamental work that needs to be done; work that involves “creating programs and curriculums that make an impact and help get more women in the pipeline, and get more women in leadership roles at big companies or at startups.”
But at what point can Girls in Tech step back and say it’s been successful? Gascoigne says that there’s still “a long way to go,” but for now, the most productive step for Girls in Tech—and for women in the industry at large—is to acknowledge the gravity of the task ahead, and to get out and start solving it.
This is a guest post by Parisa Bazl and Josh Calixto, of Infor. Parisa and Josh work for Hook & Loop, Infor’s creative department. Parisa is a senior manager and Josh is a writer. Follow Infor on Twitter.