Women & Technology in Philadelphia: Surveying the Landscape

Women & Technology in Philadelphia: Surveying the Landscape

I count myself lucky to be a part of the incredibly collaborative and supportive community of women in the technology field in Philadelphia.  I’ve explored the numerous educational resources available to women who’d like to grow their skills in a two part blog series in 2014: Part 1 and Part 2.

When I heard that the Women in Tech Summit was inviting presentation submissions for the 2015 event during Philly Tech Week, I thought this would be a good opportunity to contribute back to the community that has been so supportive and encouraging.  Now in its fourth year, the Women in Tech Summit features presentations, workshops and panels discussions.  According to Sarah Johnson and LeeAnn Kinney of the Speaker Committee, this year’s Summit raised over $35,000 for TechGirlz with 300 attendees at 18 sessions.

My friend and colleague Stacey Mosely and I collaborated on a workshop titled Mapping the Future: A Primer in Visualizing and Analyzing Open Data which focused on the analysis and visualization of open data.  This session provided tools and step by step instruction for the interpretation of bike theft data found on OpenDataPhilly and resulted in each participant creating an interactive web map of the data.  This session spawned great discussions on the questions that can be answered with this open data.  You can find the session materials here to explore and analyze the data on your own.

Even beyond Philadelphia, events like FOSS4G-NA made diversity in speaker lineup a priority and offered thousands of dollars in travel grants to underrepresented groups.  This clearly demonstrated that they see value in expanding the community of open source to include more perspectives.  And the results were encouraging, with attendance by women rising to 30%, the highest level of any previous FOSS4G-NA conference.

Apart from the numerous inspiring and thought-provoking sessions, I believe the real value events like the Women in Tech Summit offer is the facilitation of organic conversations among attendees.  To me, learning from each other and sharing feedback and advice about working in a male dominated field is the true benefit of events like this.  I count myself immensely lucky to not only have access to these wonderful resources but to have a broad network of supportive and encouraging peers that are happy to take the time to catch up over coffee and discuss both challenges and successes of the industry.

Though flush with resources and education opportunities, I think the community in Philadelphia still has room to grow and evolve.  As Meghan and Tim Plunkett mentioned in their recent article discussing how Philadelphia can learn from Silicon Valley, putting an honest focus on hiring diversity (including but not limited to women, people of color and trans individuals) and fostering non-professional programs for increasing diversity is key.  I hope 2016 brings the same inspiring educational offerings but also increased professional opportunities for women.

To get involved in the community, check out Girl Develop It Philly offerings or explore Yasmine’s blog post about embracing leadership opportunities.  With that said, don’t forget to take the time to step back, reflect and grow.

photo in banner: courtesy of Philly Tech Week/ Technically Philly