Five Initiatives Elevating Women in Chicago Tech
[This post was written by 3Points Content Strategist Katie O’Shea]
It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in tech and finance. Much has been written about the various causes of this problem, but certain solutions are clear: promoting women (in both senses of the word “promoting”) in these spaces, celebrating their contributions, and spreading awareness of the obstacles they face are important ways to level the playing field and open the door for more women to join. These strategies show young women that they too could succeed in these organizations and industries, like the women currently paving the way, and demonstrate to people internal and external to these institutions that women must be given the opportunity to succeed, if the company is to succeed.
Many studies have shown the positive impact of workplace diversity, including gender diversity. Harvard Business Review highlights many of these studies here; for example, one study, conducted by Credit Suisse, found that, “in a global analysis of 2,400 companies… organizations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women on the board.” Studies like this one make it clear that hiring and elevating women is not only just, but also prudent from a business perspective — hiring talented women and giving them opportunities to work and share their ideas will advance organizations and industries.
Over the years, we at 3Points have had the privilege of helping drive a number of client projects promoting women who shape their companies and industries. However, there are many other initiatives that do a great job elevating talented women in finance and tech. In honor of both International Women’s Day (March 8th) and Women’s History Month, we want to draw attention to some of this great work that Chicago organizations — whether they be companies or news media — are doing.
Trading Technologies — Breaking Through
Last fall, 3Points client Trading Technologies decided to bring together aspects of two of their successful previous blog series — Wizards of Today’s Markets (about famous traders) and Speaking in Code (about female technologists at TT) — to create Breaking Through, a series focusing on some of the most influential women traders of recent decades. For this series, TT’s Kara Grygotis sat down for one-on-one conversations with these traders: Margie Teller, Brynne Kelly, and Linda Raschke. Based on these conversations, TT published Q&A blog articles, which touch on a variety of topics related to these women’s career journeys and industry insights.
I often wonder now, if I had had a mentor along the way, would I have done it better? Would it all have been easier? Would I have made different choices? If there had been a woman along the way in the business whom I knew or at least could emulate, that would have been nice. But, there wasn’t, and sometimes you just pave your own path — make your own rules. -Brynne Kelly, from “Breaking Through: Brynne Kelly, Part 1”
We’re proud to have had a hand in bringing these conversations to life. Check out some of these conversations here.
CHX — Women’s Forum
In 2017, the Chicago Stock Exchange, another 3Points client, formed a new group within its organization: the CHX Women’s Forum. This group’s monthly meeting, which is open to all women in the company, has become a place for female team members to learn about important topics, share their stories, provide advice, and build camaraderie.
In order to share some of the Women’s Forum experience with the public, we worked (and continue to work) with the Exchange to begin publishing Q&A blog articles with different members of the group. The result is the CHX Women’s Forum Spotlight, a collection of in-depth looks at the roles and lives of the diverse women who power the Exchange.
From early on, I’ve always been very competitive in sports and I’ve always loved math, which were both male-dominated areas at the time. I went to a small liberal arts college, which was almost all-male — it had only just started accepting women and the men didn’t really want us there. So from the get-go, I was exposed to surviving in male-dominated environments, especially when I was not welcomed. When I began my first job in operations, and when I moved to a big city, I brought that sports mentality with me. You have to accept the challenge and thrive in it. -Marguerite Donovan, Chicago Stock Exchange CCO and CRO, from “CHX Women’s Forum Spotlight: Marguerite Donovan”
Take a look at the blog series, which continues to be published monthly; you can find the series intro on this page, which also contains links to all the profiles published so far.
Crain’s Chicago Business — The Woman Up Project
This year, Crain’s has embarked on a project to spotlight the powerful women in business in the city. In doing so, they aim to provide opportunity for these women to speak up about the obstacles that face women in this arena, and thus help bring about change.
One article in this series discussed the current landscape for women in Chicago tech. The article, which is filled with the perspectives of female leaders in Chicago tech, gives a good progress report, but it also makes clear that there is still plenty of work to do.
Status in tech starts with money. “If you change who writes checks, you change who gets checks,” says Lannert, who has become an angel investor. -Quote from Amanda Lannert, Jellyvision CEO, from “This is how women are really faring in Chicago tech”
Read the intro to the series here.
Illinois Tech Association — Women Influence Chicago
The ITA, as a key part of the Chicago tech community, is taking an important step toward making tech a better place for women. In October 2017, ITA announced that they would take on the driving role in Women Influence Chicago, an organization originally founded in 2015 by Kelly Stickel, the CEO of Remodista. The aim of this initiative is to increase women’s representation in leadership at tech companies by providing events and content that encourage women’s involvement and offer resources to help them advance. Some of their articles address these topics directly, and others, like the Female CEO Spotlight series, relate to the career stories and insights of women leaders in tech.
What I’ve learned is having convictions in your decisions and opinions is critical. I don’t think there’s harm in having a firm stance about most things that are happening inside your organization. As I look back on my growth, I wish I had been more convicted in decisions and directions much earlier on at Knowledgehound and even in other parts of my career. -Kristi Zuhlke, KnowledgeHound CEO and co-founder, from “Female CEO Spotlight: Kristi Zuhlke, CEO & Co-Founder at KnowledgeHound”
In 2015, 3Points had the pleasure of driving the PR efforts for the launch of Chicago Woman magazine (then called FW: Chicago), a publication dedicated to serving professional women in Chicago. The magazine aims to provide women in the city with interesting and relevant content, with a significant focus on profiles of outstanding female leaders from various fields.
At one point, I was one of the youngest black executives in my corporate setting. One of the things I learned in corporate America is it may be packaged differently, but fear is fear. Girls are overlooked, so we have to be the storyteller of how our girls are being impacted and are still surviving. In the nonprofit world, this is back-breaking work and it’s not about your ego. -Kelly Fair, creator of Polished Pebbles, from “Kelly Fair: Leaving No Pebble Unturned”
Check out more profiles from Chicago Woman magazine here.
At 3Points, we spend a lot of time thinking about the power of telling a person’s story. Sharing someone’s journey and perspective has the power to change people’s minds and hearts, change the conversation, and change society. And, as a company profoundly shaped by women, we at 3Points are committed to helping propel the Chicago tech community — and the world — to greater inclusivity and equality. That’s why we wanted to share just a few of the initiatives in Chicago that tell women’s stories to promote the welfare of all women. Hopefully, you enjoy and learn from these stories as much as we have.
Do you have favorite Chicago women’s initiatives we should know about? Share them with us in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.