In spite of the exponential growth within the technology industry, women and minorities in the field are still overwhelmingly under-represented. According to data gathered by the National Center for Women In Technology, 26 percent of the computing workforce in 2013 were women. African American women representing 3 percent, Asian women representing 5 percent and Hispanic women representing 2 percent.
One woman of color making notable efforts to change those statistics is Erica Baity, the mastermind behind TechieChic based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Techie Chic is just a community of women who embrace their womanhood and love technology too,” explains Baity. “The goal is to do away with that stereotype that you have to be geeky or nerdy, or look like you’re a part of the boys’ club to be a part of it.”
Baity started TechieChic in 2013 after observing the disproportionately small number of women working in technology fields. One event in particular served as a turning point for Baity:
I was working for a company and I was the only woman in the Atlanta office as well as the only person of color in the Atlanta office. We were expanding and had several tech positions open from junior to senior level positions, and we didn’t get any women.
Baity couldn’t understand why women weren’t applying. Eventually, only two women of almost 70 applications interviewed for the positions. Neither were offered a job.
“That’s when I decided to birth TechieChic,” says Baity.
TechieChic operates like a meet-up and currently has more than 100 active members. Women interested in either acquiring tech skills or honing the skills they already have can attend meet-ups offered for free year-round, and receive training in areas such as business intelligence and data, as well as Android, iOS and web application development. The organization also has a non-technical component that is focused on resume writing, interviewing and other job training skills.
Choosing To Work In Technology
Baity wasn’t always interested in technology. She initially pursued chemistry in college as an entree to Pre-Med. After realizing her overwhelming lack of passion for medicine, Baity decided to switch gears. It was while brainstorming careers to pursue that she realized that technology could be a good fit.
“I didn’t necessarily grow up with a computer in the home,” explains Baity. “When I got into programming, when I got into my database design class, that’s when I absolutely knew that this is what I wanted to do.”
Baity eventually majored in computer science and finally found her true passion: data architecture and design.
One of her biggest goals since entering the field has been sharing her journey and knowledge with other women.
“It’s a lucrative industry, it spans everything that we do,” says Baity.
A year after founding TechieChic, Baity launched Hire Women In Tech (HWIT) , a site that takes a more hands-on approach to connecting women with technology skills to job opportunities. The web platform gives companies interested in gender diversity access to a pool of women who are eager to transition into technology. Currently, the platform has approximately 100 women registered.
The Journey Continues
According to Baity, her efforts to diversify Atlanta’s tech scene have been well received.
“My experience has been great. I’ve come across a majority of white men who are nothing but helpful. I spoke a few weeks ago to the Athens Women In Technology group and made several connections with white men who are startup founders who want to do nothing but help. They want to know what they can do to get involved, what they can do to help, what can they do to help me?”
Baity shares that her biggest challenges are convincing women to participate. Bringing women “out of the shadows” and creating an environment in which they feel comfortable and are willing to share their struggle or ask for assistance is difficult.
Baity cites this reluctance to share as a hindrance to getting more women into the technology field. A lack of leadership is also a problem according Baity.
“A lot of women don’t want to carry the burden of being the agent of change,” she comments.
Baity’s own conversations with women working within the technology sector led her to believe that, though there is support for encouraging more women to enter the technology sector, many feel uncomfortable being chosen to carry the torch. Without a face for the movement — a clear leader to shoulder the burden — Baity feels that progress will be slow.
“We have to have a leader,” she emphasizes. “Maybe it’s my calling to be that one person, who knows.”
Photo Credit: Erica Baity