Janice explained, “One of the reasons I started ChickTech was to create that sense of belonging and support that I didn’t have when I was [starting out in the tech industry].”
Through operating ChickTech chapters on a city-level, Janice has grown her organization down the west coast and now to the east coast over the past four years. Chapters learn from and support each other’s activities, while developing independent projects and initiatives.
What awesome things is ChickTech doing?
“We run high school events, career-level events, and we are actually starting [to do] summer camps. We did a middle school camp for the first time this past July and we are running middle and elementary school camps next summer.”
The high school tech mentoring is their largest and most established program. Each chapter works with local high school students to introduce students to the field through hands-on, project-based learning. Workshops are held monthly and chapters also assist students in finding summer internships in tech companies. An aspect I found interesting was their use of nominations from teachers and school administration. “For our high school program, we focus on identifying girls that aren’t yet engaged in technology, but have the aptitude to do well in it. We are trying to find the unusual suspects. We work with local high schools to get nominations. If we can get them nominated, that really helps out [in boosting participation].”
Janice describes it as: “We’re in technology and we think technology would be better with you in it. So let us work with you and help you to join us.”
The work of ChickTech seems to go far beyond showing girls that technology is cool. “If we’re doing things right in our chapters, we’re finding the kids that need more than [encouragement in technology]. They need role models; they need that person to help them.”
Does ChickTech have initiatives for women currently working in tech?
Each chapter develops and hosts their own monthly career development workshops and this year several chapter are hosting their first local conferences, with speakers and employers that are recruiting from the local region. The concept is, “Local conference, focused on making local connections.” Portland hosted the first ACTW conference last year and the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York City chapters are kicking off their first ones in 2016.
On a national level, ChickTech is pursuing culture and diversity training for companies and recruiters. The goals include, “…helping recruiters to understand unconscious bias, as well as how they may be turning women off from companies and how they can switch that. When a woman or diverse candidate sees what they [the company] has written for a job description, they can see that the company does truly care. So many times, that doesn’t happen and they are missing out on valuable, amazing candidates, who are diverse, because of these things. And, now that they’re in here, how is your culture? Are [new employees] going to leave within two weeks?”
Janice was pretty concise when summing it up. “When you see women so unhappy, you’re like, ‘This is bullshit.’”
How can I get involved?
ChickTech currently operates chapters in Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area, Corvallis, Houston, Austin, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Philly (the newest addition!). Word on the street is that Atlanta may soon join the party as well… You can visit the websites for individual chapters and the national site to learn more.
Despite a focus on individuals who identify as women, all genders are welcome for volunteering, leadership, and career development.
What other cool things is ChickTech working on?
- Going international in 2016: “How do we go to places where our culture is really different? How do we go to the Middle East, Africa, Asia? And do it in a really empowering way. Rather than saying, ‘This is the model you need.’”
- Partnering with artists: Think nerdy t-shirts, leggings, and posters. Watch out Etsy!