I have worked in technology for the past 18 years. Wow. Typing that made me feel really old! But, it is what it is. I started working in IT at a time when there were not a lot of women in the field. But, over the years more and more women have embraced working in different areas of IT. It makes me happy to see women doing their thing in tech! For a long time it has been thought that only men could dominate the tech space, but this is just not true. And it is important that girls know this.

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A couple of years ago, I spoke to 3-4 computer science classes at a local high school. The topic was Web Design for Entrepreneurship and Small Business. I opened the topic up and spoke a bit about working in tech in general. There was a clear stigma among the teens that working is tech is not cool. They had a vision of IT workers and programmers being nerdy. I was excited to change their minds. There I stood in my jeans, Chuck Taylors, and graphic t-shirt, not looking like a nerd at all. I least I hope not! But, even with my relaxed appearance and mood the students were barely interested in what I had to say. Only a couple of them asked questions. And I distinctly remember a girl raising her hand to ask me a question. The boy next to her, who I’m assuming was her boyfriend, snatched her hand down. Let’s just say that I had a few choice words for him that can be summed up as, “Let her ask a question if she wants!” Now, these were teens, but this attitude continues on into adulthood for many.

Events like Women in Tech Demo Days by Capital One are proving that tech rocks, and girls rock! They recently held events in New York, Washington, DC and Dallas, TX.

 

What are Women in Tech Demo Days?

Women in Tech Demo Days are a series of community events aimed at empowering women and furthering the conversation around gender parity in tech. Developers, designers and entrepreneurs were invited to show off their coding genius and build something amazing.

The mission was….

STEP 1: Build an app that supports women and girls in tech

STEP 2: Demo your project in front of prominent industry leaders

STEP 3: Walk away with a $10k General Assembly scholarship for your team plus the non profit partner will get a $15k grant in your honor!

Several teams accepted the challenge.

 

August 27th event in Washington, DC

On August 27th, dozens of female designers, developers and entrepreneurs participated in Women in Tech Demo Day In Washington, DC. Sponsored by Capital One, the event gave teams two weeks to create a tech solution to a nonprofit challenge. The theme was “representation matters”, and how it’s more difficult for young girls to become leaders in the tech world. This resonates with me. I have mentioned before that I was very often the only female in a meeting with 8-10 guys at work. Luckily, the dynamic is changing. Women are more involved in tech than ever. During the event, mentors and coaches provided feedback for the teams as they refined their products. Teams then pitched their final products to a panel of expert local judges. Judges included representatives from Capital One, Black Girls Code, Virginia’s House of Representative, and Women@Forbes.

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Capital One’s community partner Black Girls Code, is using the products created to help girls of color envision themselves as computer scientists. Products ranged from mobile apps to interactive educational games and more.

Alika’s Treehouse was chosen as the winner. The team created an interactive storybook that teaches initial coding techniques to girls through the adventures of a peer: a young black girl name Alika. They received a scholarship to General Assembly valued at $10,000 to put toward bootcamps or educational programming of their choice. Also, $15,000 was donated in their honor to Black Girls Code. Alika’s Treehouse exceeded expectations and shocked the crowd by also donating their $10,000 General Assembly scholarship to the nonprofit. This means that all $25,000 worth of prizes went to Black Girls Code! How awesome is that?

Check out the video below for some of the highlights.

001WitDemoDayDC from Jeff Martini on Vimeo.
 

Oct 29th event in Plano, TX

Following the same format as the DC event, the Dallas event was attended by ladies (and their male allies) from all over who invented products, presented to judges, crossed their fingers, and waited for a winner to be announced. The winning team of this round was a team of ladies named UpTell. They created an app for girls to share creative stories.

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President Obama Recognizes Capital One Tech Initiatives

On September 14 at the White House, President Obama recognized Women in Tech Demo Day, and another Capital One initiative, C1 Coders. The goal of C1 Coders is to bring STEM learning to life. Originally launched at only two schools in five communities in the fall of 2014, the C1 Coders program has grown. It is now in 35 different schools across the country. The objective of the program is simple: expose middle school students to technology by partnering with schools and community leaders to foster a focus in software engineering. This sounds very similar to the STEM program that my kids are enrolled in her in Chicago. I love the sound of that!

Both programs were recognized by President Obama as being crucial programs in the private sector that further his Computer Science for All program to expand computer science education. Guests attending participated in Family Code Night. Family Code Night gets the whole family involved in coding.

 

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Would you like to get more involved in tech? Or maybe you want to get a team together for one of next year’s events. Check out the Women in Tech Demo Days website for more information.

 

Disclosure: Thank you Capital One for sponsoring this post! This is a paid endorsement. All opinions are my own and were not directed by Capital One. To learn more about Capital One, visit www.capitalone.com.