Utah Women in Tech: What’s Already Happening

The good news is, there are already groups and individuals in Utah working to implement these changes, get more women into technology, and unite the women pioneers that are already part of the industry.


This is the third in a series of articles Beehive Startups will be publishing on what it’s like to be a woman working in Utah’s technology sector. If you need to catch up, read the first and second articles here.

So there’s a problem. Not enough women in the tech industry, and definitely not enough women in tech in Utah. And we know things need to change. We need to acknowledge that we have a problem. We need to let women know that they are needed and necessary in the industry. We need to recognize and overcome the stereotypes women face when entering the tech industry. And we need to stop making women feel like being a mother and a valuable part of the tech industry are mutually exclusive.

The good news is, there are already groups and individuals in Utah working to implement these changes, get more women into technology, and unite the women pioneers that are already part of the industry.

For this series, we are highlighting two groups specifically, Girl Develop It and Women Tech Council, but we want to commend all the men and women alike across the state who are taking strides to include more women in the Utah tech scene.

Girl Develop It

Stacie Farmer and Zara Johnson co-founded the Salt Lake City Chapter of Girl Develop It, or GDI, in January of last 2014.

The GDI website states, “It can be intimidating for women to learn and ask questions when they are in an extreme minority. While open and welcoming, today’s budding developer community is up to 91% male. There isn’t a comfortable place where women can learn at their own pace and not be afraid to ask ‘stupid questions.’ We decided it was time to provide a place where all questions are OK and everyone can learn in a supportive environment. Our courses focus on coding, leveraging existing technology, and having something to show for it, like building websites and mobile apps.”

Farmer says, “Before we started the SLC chapter of GDI, most female developers (including myself) had never worked with or even met another female developer. Here in Utah, we can often feel very isolated and miss out on the support of others who have been in similar situations.” However, Farmer says that GDI has helped many women in tech come together in support. “Since our chapter was launched, I constantly hear people say they never realized how many other female developers there were in our area and how exciting it is to meet them. I think the community we’re building will have the biggest long-term impact for our area. My hope is that it gives women a voice to be heard. I hope our community gives them the support & courage to pursue their passions, the strength to forge a better path for future women in tech, and the freedom to choose whatever path makes them the happiest, even if the right choice for them means leaving the field.”

Girl Develop It hosts classes and events where women in tech can get together and learn about coding and programming, as well as connect with each other. Events include Hack Night, PseudoCode & Coffee, and a Women’s Lunch.

Stacie Farmer explains these events in detail, “[Hack Night] allows people to bring their projects so they can have a place to focus on it, get help with it, and to meet new people.” Hack Night is hosted by Instructure in Cottonwood Heights, and is held every fourth Wednesday of the month. Farmer continues, “PseudoCode & Coffee is a more laid-back gathering. We currently meet at Mestizo in SLC and discuss tech topics, answer questions about the field, and chat about whatever’s on our mind.” The GDI website states that all levels of expertise are welcome to come to PsuedoCode & Coffee to “do some knowledge sharing about a pre-defined topic and work on projects.” Farmer and her co-founders recently started a Women’s Lunch in the SLC area and one that rotates around Utah County. Farmer says, “These [lunches] give new people the opportunity to meet others in a small group (no more than 6 people) and to get a short break away from their busy schedules. This is a very low-key event since it can be intimidating to go to an event where you don’t know anyone and we rotate it around to make it more convenient for people.”

To celebrate the Salt Lake City chapter’s one year anniversary, Girl Develop It is throwing a party to thank all their members, sponsors and friends. The event is March 25, 7:00 PM at Instructure. There is an optional $5.00 donation and all proceeds will go to the Girl Develop It scholarship fund.

GDI is always welcoming of new members and is especially interested to meet experienced female developers to provide support and mentorship, and to answer questions for those new to the field. Those interested can join the meetup group via this link.

Additionally, GDI is always looking for sponsors for classes, scholarships, used laptops, food, and fun swag such as programming books, stickers, etc. Businesses interested in supporting GDI can contact the group at saltlakecity@girldevelopit.com.

Women Tech Council

Kim Jones, founder of Women Tech Council, was on the board of UTC and noticed a huge void. She realized that Utah needed a tech-centric organization that would encourage women in the community to get involved. Jones says, “There weren’t many networking events that women seemed to be drawn to and the UTC board was comprised of over 90% men.” So in 2007, Jones contacted Cydni Tetro and Sara Jones to start a Women Technology Council. Co-founder Sara Jones says, “We wanted to create more opportunity for women in technology, bring the business community together around this purpose, and support women in their careers.” Kim Jones says, “Cyd, Sara and I carefully crafted our key objectives and then we met with fellow tech colleagues both male and female to ensure we were providing an organization that would be a resource to corporations, a networking force for women in tech and a mentor for STEM education.” Today the board has over 3,000 members nationally and internationally. Kim Jones says, “We have about nine men on our advisory board and our events are sold out on a consistent basis.” Sara Jones adds, “We love that we can be part of bringing women and men together to generate more opportunities for everyone.”

The founders explain that the first step to connecting women with the council was to actually find out who the women in tech are. Sara Jones says, “When I first started Women Tech Council, honestly, it was really hard to find the women in tech. And I would say that women in general were struggling at the time to be recognized as influencers. Now, 8 years later, it is hugely gratifying to see a large community of strong women leaders who are recognized as influencers.” Kim Jones adds, “We found countless numbers of qualified engineers at ATK, Omniture (now Adobe), Symantec and others as well as high level CIOs, CTOs and thought leaders,” Jones says. “We were so happy to see that women that were highly credentialed in tech along with women working at tech companies utilizing technology were all over Utah and other states.”

Now the Women Tech Council assists with board recommendations, speaks at key events, and mentors students among countless other activities within the tech community. “I think the major difference we’ve made is providing a platform for women to network with professionals in their industry,” JKim ones says. “Another big difference we’ve made is recognition. We have had our annual Women Tech Awards event for 7 years.” The Women Tech Awards honors innovators and top talent in the tech industry, as well as students in tech. Last year the event drew an audience of approximately 700. “Looking around the room, there were at least 40% men in the crowd, supporting bright women and letting the 250 students that attend know that men in our community are here to support them as well,” Kim Jones says. Sara Jones adds, “By staying really focused on technology, career, and mentorship topics, we’ve been able to engage women and men to support this worthwhile effort.”

While the council has helped the tech industry come a long way in supporting women, tech in Utah still has a way to go. “Bottom line, we need more women pursuing STEM education and careers. We would like to see that happen via scholarships, events mentoring young girls such as SheTech Explorer Day and increased efforts in the community to inspire this,” Kim Jones says. “We know that education and thought leadership are vital to continuing to make a difference.”

The Women Tech Council hosts regular Tech Talks as well as quarterly events such as Spring Networking, Summer IdeaLab, Women Tech Awards, and a Holiday Social. They have also recently added an entrepreneurship series to mentor women in startups. To view all upcoming events, visit this link.

The council is a volunteer based organization is is always looking for speakers, members for committees, and those willing to blog and post to social media. The best way to get involved is to contact Kristin Wright at kristin@womentechcouncil.com. New members are always welcome and encouraged to come to events and meet new people in the industry. To sign up for a membership and get notifications about council events and other events in the community, visit this link.

Published 3/25/2015

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