The roundtable hosted by Techweek, with the support of Ms. Tech, yielded both a positive and productive conversation on a number of topics. We want to thank those who participated for their insight and honest contributions. We are excited to incorporate five actionable ideas to build upon Techweek’s 3rd Annual “Women In Tech” programming, which has been in development over the last several months.
We got it very wrong this time and, in doing so, learned some important lessons. We already have initiatives for “Women in Technology” in place at Techweek, and we are now determined to make those good initiatives great.
Below are key discussion points and action items that resulted from the roundtable:
Discussion: Context and communication are key to content of this nature. Techweek is, in large part, defined by innovation, edginess, and the ability to feature technology in alternative ways. Unfortunately, our poor judgment obscured the positive intent and negated the relevant content of the newsletter.
- Communicate deliberately: Techweek is committing to increased sensitivity and awareness of context and overall intent of message and audience. We know that images and marketing materials have the power to marginalize the very groups that we seek to celebrate; we will be acutely aware of this as we develop materials and market events in the future. In summary, we will be more deliberate, more thoughtful and more sensitive in how we communicate, including the selection of the photos and logos we use.
Discussion: Techweek’s platform gives us a unique ability to empower rising female entrepreneurs and technologists with opportunities and access to the resources necessary to gain experience, confidence and connections to achieve business goals.
- Techweek Fellows Program & Hiring Fair: Techweek will select 50 fellows as part of a Women’s Leadership program, based on community nominations to open this Friday. The Fellows will be provided with a full Summit pass and will be highlighted at a dedicated reception, which will be linked with the Women In Tech luncheon and the Hiring Fair. This Fellowship program had a successful trial last year, and is now set up for significant expansion alongside Techweek’s programing specific to women in tech.
- Techweek LAUNCH: Techweek will recruit 25 more LAUNCH competitors from historically underrepresented groups within technology. We will focus on extending our reach to growing entrepreneurial communities and institutes of higher education that have previously been underrepresented.
Discussion: In our roundtable discussion, participants were honest and critical, leading to a productive conversation. There was, however, a shared feeling of disappointment that some of the most publicly outspoken critics did not express an interest in joining together to actively create solutions.
- More dialogue: Techweek will again host open forums with those who wish to create real change in Chicago’s tech community and beyond. We realize that last night’s roundtable came at short notice; we will host a second round table, similar in format, next Tuesday at 7PM in our offices, 222 W. Hubbard.
- More quality discussion from leaders: Techweek wants to create more discourse on this issue. We will work to bring influential leaders to Techweek who have been vocal about these important topics, both locally and nationally, to continue the conversation at Techweek Chicago.
Discussion: The participants at the roundtable were clear that we should continue with all planned programming for this year, including the Black Tie Rave and the FashionTECH Runway Show. Participants encouraged us to continue to push the envelope in creating new engagement opportunities, especially for women. We take great pride in the fact that female attendees at Techweek Chicago account for ~40% of our participants. This is notable, as the industry is made up of ~20% women.
- Black Tie Rave: Although roundtable participants felt Techweek should continue with all planned events, Techweek has decided to cancel the Black Tie Rave on the 14th of June, which has clearly begun to distract from our important mission. We will be in touch with all attendees within the next 24 hours and will be issuing full refunds. Techweek will donate the projected proceeds, $25,000, to Tech Gives Back initiative recipients.
- FashionTECH Runway Show: The Techweek FashionTECH Runway Show will continue as planned. This event is an integral part of our programming that supports fashion tech and wearables companies, attracts a diverse set of attendees, and showcases how tech is integrated in our everyday lives.
The constructive conversation was encouraging last evening and we feel confident about the impact that will result from turning words into actions. We are moving forward immediately to act on these next steps to maximize the opportunity presented by Techweek Chicago 2014. We will provide more details on program specifics and applications tomorrow.
UPDATE: If you are interested in our Fellowship program email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To join our discussion next Tuesday email:email@example.com