Women in DC Tech are Changing the Rate of Change

Wingate Hughes is sponsoring the DCFemTech Awards tonight, April 13 to help congratulate the women who are working in the trenches of DC tech and design who ensure their companies achieve success. The women we are honoring tonight are typically behind the scenes, and this got us thinking.

Nationwide, women tend to take the backseat in pay, promotions, leadership roles, and public acknowledgement, though women are more likely to graduate college and attend graduate school. Women have enrolled in college at a higher rate than men since the 1970s, according to Forbes, and yet the White House reports that “the typical woman working full-time all year in the United States earned only 79 percent of what the typical man earned working full-time all year.” Sure women have made great strides since women’s suffrage in the 1920s but this snail’s pace to equality in the workforce must be revved to match the education, hours, and commitment women make to our careers.

At Wingate Hughes, our office is comprised almost entirely of women – we’re 93 percent female. Though we are women strong, the topic of successful women in the workforce is still seldom discussed in our office. We forget to acknowledge how awesome we are, and so with the DCFemTech Awards happening tonight, we thought this was the perfect time to have a conversation about women’s roles in the workplace — specifically in DC tech.

Shana Glenzer, CMO at MakeOffices and co-organizer for DCFemTech and the DCFemTech Awards, and Amy Shavelson, Studio Director at Wingate Hughes, sat down with us this week to break down the current climate for women in the DC tech community and the general workforce. Both Amy and Shana are active in numerous networking groups and support and promote equality in the workplace. Read their advice on how women can continue to kick a**.

Shana Glenzer DCFemTech Wingate Hughes Architects
Shana Glenzer, CMO at MakeOffices and co-organizer for DCFemTech
Amy Shavelson Wingate Hughes Architects DCFemTech
Amy Shavelson, Studio Director at 
Wingate Hughes Architects

Wingate Hughes: Shana can you explain why you started DCFemTech?

SG: DCFemTech started in 2014 with a gathering of women leaders over wine and sushi to share their experiences about running tech organizations. Stephanie Nguyen (her startup Silica Labs shared office space with Shana’s then current job at Social Radar) and I pulled these women together firstly to get to know one another. Through our conversations DCFemTech was born. We share resources and bring leaders together to close the gender gap. Too often women do no not tout their great work. We are their collective microphone to amplify women’s success stories in the DC tech world.

Wingate Hughes: Amy explain your interest in supporting women in DC tech.

AS: Women do really well supporting each other and lifting each other up. We attend college at higher rates than men do, but then hold fewer leadership roles in the tech sector. I want to help women thrive in their careers, regardless of the industry. Wingate Hughes is an exception in the architecture world. Our office is mostly made of women. However, I still work with mostly men outside of our firm – contractors, brokers, etc. I understand what it feels like to be the only woman in the room.

Wingate Hughes: How have you seen the roles women play in DC’s tech industry change in the past 10 years?

SG: Recently, Forbes published results from SmartAsset’s study on the best cities for women in tech. Surprisingly, Silicon Valley and the west coast were barely a blip on the radar. DC is actually the best city in the nation for women to work in tech, and we make 99.3 percent as much as men in the same role. Also, 40 percent of DC’s tech jobs are held by women. This is huge. We are no longer the only women in the room. DC has made huge strides in the past 10 years.

AS: That’s awesome!

SG: Exactly, the study is encouraging. Cities you might not expect are making progressive moves for women in tech. Women in Kansas City and Detroit actually make more than their male colleagues in the same role. Kansas City’s women earn 100.8 percent in comparison to men in the same tech job, and Detroit’s ladies of tech make an amazing 122.8 percent when compared to men who share the same tech position.

AS: The challenge is how to close the gap or surpass the gap completely. Societal factors push personal growth and force the collective around you to follow. The faster things change for women in the workforce, the faster society has to catch up.

Wingate Hughes: How do you see women’s roles in tech in DC evolving? What needs to change to guarantee improvement?

SG: Women’s roles will continue to progress over the years but we have a lot of work to do. I hope women’s roles in tech, and all male-dominated fields, continue to rise. My hope is that we get to a point where it becomes less necessary to have this conversation. To make this happen though, we need more women in leadership roles. When we reach equal playing field in the board room, women will be able to make more decisions that can positively impact women in DC tech.

AS: If the rate of progress in closing the wage gap continues at the same rate between the late 1970s and now, the gender gap should close by 2133. That’s only 117 years away. Ha! Joking aside, women in DC are improving the District’s tech scene because more of us are working in tech than the majority of the country. But this is technology, where things move quickly, so why does the rate of change have to stay the same? We need to kick-start this conversation to the next level. The question is, how do you change the rate of change?

SG: I love that question Amy. To change the rate of change, we need to keep the conversation going on the importance of women in DC tech, and we need to have this discussion more often. We also need women to participate in tech events – locally and nationally. By showing up to DCFemTech and similar groups, women have a place to build a community that in turn builds their confidence. The courage to speak up, share ideas, make bold choices, and to be tenacious in our careers is something we can be better at as women. Women in tech need to be seen and heard. DCFemTech encourages women to make this happen.

Wingate Hughes: You are so right Shana, and we can all start by showing up to a monthly women’s networking group like DCFemTech.