New Cities Initiative to Increase Women in Tech across the U.S.

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An image of Chicago with words typed over which read Gender. Equality. Tech.

New Cities Initiative to Increase Women in Tech across the U.S.

Pivotal Ventures, together with Break Through Tech, SecondMuse, and several leading social organizations, announced today a new initiative, Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities, designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women in tech through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the U.S. With a $50 million investment from Pivotal Ventures, the initiative will focus on three U.S. cities over five years – kicking-off in Chicago in January 2020.

As local tech ecosystems grow, GET Cities looks to engage students from the first college course, to women in the current workforce, to female founders and investors. The initiative aims to create collaborative models that can be replicated in other growing innovation hubs by bringing together key stakeholders to invest and align resources and create shared goals for women in tech across academia, non-profit, government, venture capital, and business sectors in each selected city. The goal is to maximize the impact of local women-in-tech efforts, crowd in other funders, and foster local coordination that can accelerate the pace of change, nationally.

The Gender Gap in Tech

It is widely known that the tech industry skews male. Today, women are chronically underrepresented in the U.S. tech sector, holding only 26 percent of computing jobs, and to an even greater extent in fast-growing innovation industries such as artificial intelligence (AI). The situation is particularly grave for underrepresented women of color in the U.S. in the workforce and as founders. For example, despite accounting for approximately 16 percent of the general population, African American women make up 3 percent and Hispanic women 1 percent of the tech workforce.

Moreover, tech investments, startups, and large tech companies have been disproportionately concentrated in select metropolitan areas. Five top innovation metro areas – Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and San Diego – accounted for over 90% of the nation’s tech sector growth between 2015 to 2017 and increased the share of the nation’s total innovation employment from 17.6% to 22.8% in the same period. Recently, however, there have been signs that other metropolitan areas across the country have potential to become America’s next promising hubs for tech, especially as the demand for more accessible and affordable cities continues to grow. This shift is already starting, as evidenced by the fact that despite the concentrated growth of the tech sector in a few cities, 31 of the largest 100 metros in the nation nonetheless increased their share of the tech sector between 2015 and 2017.

In 2019, Pivotal Ventures founder, Melinda Gates, announced a plan to accelerate the pace of change for women by 2030 through advancing women’s power and influence in the U.S. As part of this commitment, Pivotal Ventures is focused on building pathways and putting women on the fast-track to enter into and advance in influential sectors, such as technology, entrepreneurship, and investing, and this initiative is taking a city-specific lens to tackle that challenge.

First Stop: Chicago

GET Cities will kick off in Chicago, a fast-growing technology hub with significant potential for women to advance in the tech field. As a Midwest destination for many large, technology companies and home to an increasing number of VC firms supporting local startups, Chicago is ideally suited for a collaborative stakeholder effort to advance women in tech alongside existing efforts like P33, a civic and social organization dedicated to transforming Chicago into a tier one technology and innovation hub and promoting inclusive economic growth.

The selection of Chicago followed a rigorous analysis of emerging tech hubs in the U.S., conducted by Pivotal Ventures, which included factors such as current and future sources of diverse talent to computing degree programs and industry, access to capital, strength of local business and employer community, and the regulatory and political environment. Additional cities will be selected and announced in the course of the next several years.

Shaping an Inclusive Tech Ecosystem

Establishing an inclusive tech ecosystem requires a multi-faceted approach that aligns a cross-section of stakeholders that can influence a city’s growing tech industry. The partner-led approach will include:

  • Building Pathways into Tech: Break Through Tech, a new national program launched at Cornell Tech, will replicate its successful Women in Technology & Entrepreneurship New York (WiTNY) model and partner with higher education institutions – beginning with the University of Illinois at Chicago – to increase the number of female computing graduates in select cities. With additional support from the Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Verizon, programs will focus on curriculum innovation; career development and expanded access to innovative internships with industry partners; and community development to connect female students to each other and to professionals. 

  • Activating and Aligning the Tech and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Led by SecondMuse, a global innovation agency, GET Cities will engage local startups, venture firms, tech companies, nonprofits, and other players to organize ecosystem-building activities such as:

    • Developing a set of shared goals on hiring and retention of women
    • Sharing best practices on workplace culture among companies
    • Boosting representation of women in artificial intelligence jobs, and
    • Aligning and identifying sources of capital and funding for women entrepreneurs

  • Ensuring Equal Representation for All Women: The approach in each city will be developed to open entry points for women of all backgrounds, particularly women of color, into tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Through partnerships with groups such as AI4ALL and digitalundivided, the effort will aim to increase diversity and inclusion in AI and support Black and Latinx women startup founders. The effort will also build upon Pivotal Ventures’ support of the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, which has brought together large technology companies to double the number of Black, Latinx, and Native American women graduating with computing degrees by 2025.

Just the Beginning

As the tech industry continues to grow beyond Silicon Valley, stakeholders must actively start shaping the cultures of these emerging tech hubs to be supportive of women from the start and connecting local initiatives for women in tech that remain fragmented and subscale. By engaging early and activating both the supply side (academia, startups) and the demand side (industry, venture investment), emerging tech hubs can grow while also creating more effective pathways for women into tech and entrepreneurship. For more information on how to get involved in GET Cities and GET Chicago, visit www.GETCities.org.