Local business and technology leaders are trying to improve workplace environments for the next generation of women.
A group of entrepreneurs, tech workers, and college students gathered Wednesday at the business co-op Domi Station to talk about how to support working women.
By the numbers, there are just more women in America than men, but they’re still underrepresented in organizational leadership roles. Alissa Orvale is a Florida State University student and she’s part of Domi’s Women Wednesdays lecture series. She says the fact that women are underrepresented can fuel the incorrect assumption that they don’t belong.
“I feel like because women aren’t as much in the tech fields, we feel that they are less competent or less skilled to perform those jobs,” Orvale said.
Chelsea Schneider is a co-founder of a start-up called Drifter, which matches tourists to local freelance tour guides. There are more women working than ever before, but Schneider says negative stereotypes are still out there.
“I go home and I have a dad who works in upper management who complains that Lockheed is hiring a bunch of women, and they’re just being hired for diversity and he’s being discriminated against. It can be as close as your own families,” Schneider said.
Schneider is encouraging women to hone their skills and seek out mentors.
“Walking into the room and being the only woman, walking into a room and not knowing anybody…that’s not the worst thing that’s ever going to happen to you in your life. You have to look at it with perspective. And I think once you have that perspective it’s a lot easier to say I belong here, I know what my skills are and I’m going to make a place for myself,” she said.
Val Rodriguez is the other co-founder of Drifter. She says simply seeing diverse leaders and knowing that gender isn’t destiny can have a significant impact on what women and girls think is possible.
“Are we reaching women? Are we reaching students who are interested and passionate about running their own ship? And working with people to create something that’s bigger than themselves? And do they see themselves capable of doing that?” Rodriguez asked.
Rodriguez says at first she didn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur, but she’s learning to embrace her new identity. And as she grows her company, she hopes to make more room for other women.