Women in tech program expanding to DC

Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities, led by Cornell Tech-based Break Through Tech and SecondMuse, in partnership with Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures, on March 2 launched GET DC as its next city hub.

GET DC will work collaboratively with the Washington metro region’s tech ecosystem to propel more women and marginalized groups into tech education, careers and leadership.

Break Through Tech is a national initiative that began as Women in Technology & Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY) at Cornell Tech in New York City. It brings together academia and industry to build an ecosystem where more women are graduating with relevant degrees and finding an inclusive career environment waiting for them for years to come.

“The tech industry impacts all of us, which is why it needs to include all of us – especially women and other underrepresented groups,” said Renee Wittemyer, director of program strategy and investment for Pivotal Ventures, which has invested $50 million into GET Cities.

“We are excited that GET Cities is coming to the D.C. area to help accelerate women’s representation and leadership in driving innovation in this growing tech hub,” Wittemyer said. “Great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, which is why it is critical to support tech talent across the country.”

The combination of the current economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing national awareness of inequities – across gender, race and other underrepresented identities in society – make this a critical time to scale a movement toward equity in tech.

GET DC will build on the model of the first city of the initiative, GET Chicago, to create an inclusive tech economy by focusing on three key pillars – academia, industry and entrepreneurship . Specifically, it aims to:

  • Build resilient pathways into tech: Break Through Tech will propel women at George Mason University and the University of Maryland, College Park, into tech careers through programs that encourage and incentivize more women to pursue computing degrees, then support them along their educational journey with real-world experiences and a network of supportive professionals and peers; and
  • Align the local tech and entrepreneurial ecosystems: SecondMuse will convene city-based partners and collaborate on increasing women’s leadership and representation in all aspects of the tech economy from the startup world to the largest industry players. City partners include the aforementioned dual academic partnership; tech companies; the venture capital and startup communities; and local and national advocacy organizations.

When selecting a new hub, GET Cities looks at the broad state of gender equity in tech and identifies cities that have strong diversity and the opportunity for impact. Washington consistently ranks as one of the best cities for tech due to its growing tech talent pool, proximity to federal government infrastructure and data centers, and the number of Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in the metro area.

“GET DC will impact an emerging tech hub that’s bustling with opportunity for women and underrepresented groups in an industry that continues to trend more male and white,” said Judith Spitz, founder and executive director at Break Through Tech. “Alongside our partner SecondMuse, Break Through Tech will work towards tackling two key hurdles for women – access and experience.”

GET DC is committed to working in the D.C. metro area to increase the impact and influence of women and other marginalized people in tech, with the mission of supporting the growth of an inclusive tech economy.

“When looking for the right levers to pull to accelerate the influence of women, trans and nonbinary people in tech – particularly Black, indigenous, and people of color – we want to be able to make an immediate and real impact,” said Leslie Lynn Smith, national director of GET Cities. “We see a lot of opportunity in the D.C. region because of its ongoing investments in its regional tech economy and its work around equity with regard to gender and race.”

Cornell Tech has partnered with the City University of New York, which saw a 61% increase in the number of women pursuing computer science bachelor’s degrees since Break Through Tech New York launched in 2016.

Break Through Tech chose George Mason University and the University of Maryland, College Park, to launch a cross-institutional collaboration with the goal of increasing women graduating with a tech degree by 12.5 percentage points at each university by 2026.

Break Through Tech’s immersive program will include (but is not limited to):

  • summer programming to ignite interest in tech;
  • new introductory computer science courses designed to encourage inclusion;
  • innovative internship programs to provide real world experiences early in college; and
  • the development of a networked community of women in the D.C. metro area to support, engage and motivate one another.

GET Cities is expected to announce its third city later this year.

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