3 Lessons I Learned From #WITDemoDay NYC

Happy Wednesday!

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Capital One’s Women In Tech Demo Day in New York City. As you all know, I’ve partnered with them to highlight why it is important for women, especially those of color, to have a strong presence within the tech industry.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, I witnessed teams of strangers collaborate and create apps that would creatively raise awareness and combat the unconscious bias that women face within the workplace. 18 teams stood before an audience of dozens of attendees and a panel of dynamic judges to showcase why they believed their idea was the best solution to the problem at hand.

While there were gems upon gems shared from various speakers and the participants themselves, here are three of the biggest lessons that I took away from last weekend’s event:

 Photo: Capital One

Photo: Capital One

1. Black women are less likely to be funded fully for their entrepreneurship ventures compared to their white male counterparts. During her keynote speech, founder of Plum Perfect and Capital One’s very own Asmau Ahmed shared her experiences as a black woman start-up founder. “Walking into a room full of venture capitalists and them all being surprised that I’m a black woman tech founder is always a fun moment,” Ahmed said to the crowd. According to a The #ProjectDiane Report published by Kathryn Finney in 2016, she is also one of 11 black women in the “Million Dollar Club”, a list of black women startup founders who have raised one million dollars in funding for their companies. And while that very low number may seem disappointing, (and believe me, it is) Asmau encouraged the audience to remain hopeful. “Become an investor if you can,” she said. “Amplify your voices by helping others and never settle. Don’t give up.”

 Photo: Capital One

Photo: Capital One

2. Women are leaving their jobs in technology at alarming rates. But luckily, there are women who want to change that. In my chat with Capital One’s SVP of Shared Tech Julie Elberfeld, I learned a lot about her path into the tech industry, and why ensuring that women obtain and keep jobs within the sector. “I’ve really reflected on why I’ve stayed in technology, because one of my passions right now is to look at the drop out rate,” Elberfeld said. “It’s uncanny to me the number of women who have just dropped out of the career entirely over the course of their career. 56 percent of women drop out of technology by the 15-year point of their career, 40 percent by their 10 year point -- and that to me is really compelling and something I want to change.” For Julie, she decided to stay in tech for the people, the problem solving and the ability to create products and lead a team through that creation process. “In my 30 years of working in this industry, I’ve definitely seen technology change,” she says, “so the pace of change is really energizing and challenges me to always learn something new.”

 Photo: Capital One

Photo: Capital One

3. Women developers, coders and other technologists are more likely to be suggested to connect with other male developers and coders on LinkedIn instead of women. Luckily, there was a team who wanted to make sure that didn’t happen any more. #WITDemoDay New York City winners team “Link With Women” created a browser extension with an algorithm that elevates women in your suggestions to connect with rather than automatically suggesting that you connect with men within the industry. As grand prize winners, the team of four walked away with a $10,000 General Assembly scholarship and a shout out in the Women Who Code newsletter, plus tickets and travel to Capital One's Women in Tech Experience in Virginia, November 2017. I’m so excited to see these young ladies bring this idea to life, and work toward eliminating unconscious bias for women and girls in tech.

Overall, #WITDemoDay was an incredible opportunity for me to engage with so many wonderful women, and support Capital One’s ongoing initiative to ensure that women and girls launch careers in technology and continue to thrive.

Didn’t have a chance to attend #WITDemoDay in New York City? Not to worry - Women In Tech Demo Days event is coming to Washington, D.C. on July 21st and 22nd. To register, use the promo code “WITDDwithChasity” to attend for free!