Why Women in Tech Spaces are Shutting Down

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Breaking Barriers

While we’d all love to believe we’ve solved gender inequity in the tech industry, that’s unfortunately not the reality. The good news is that in some ways, we’re slowly marching toward progress, but we still have a long way to go:

And yet, there seems to be a growing lack of interest in supporting efforts to support women working in this space. Indeed, perhaps a backlash? The aggressive return to work efforts by most major companies, the continued lack of support for childcare (which typically falls to women to resolve), and the lack of education and support for managers in rapidly changing work environments indicate that we may be going backward.

Several notable organizations supporting women in technology have shut down recently, including Portland Women in Technology, Women Who Code, and Chic Geek. Had we not transitioned to include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training in 2017, we likely would have faced a similar fate. Many of our friends in this space have also struggled to secure sponsorships.

From 2013 to February 2020, we at She+ Geeks Out provided a fun and welcoming environment for women and non-binary individuals in tech to network and socialize, typically at company offices. Pre-COVID, we hosted three events per month: our signature “Geek Out” event with short presentations from three speakers, a happy hour, and a professional development panel. Leading companies like ezCater, Toast, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and many others would host our events, showcasing their spaces and talent while connecting with our incredible community members. Companies paid sponsorship fees, and we were typically booked a year in advance.

Like everyone else, we transitioned to virtual events when the pandemic hit. To encourage networking, a core part of our offering, we chose Remo.co, a platform designed for interactive conversations, instead of Zoom. Facebook, which was scheduled to host in April, initially planned to cancel but embraced the platform, sending gifts to all participants for a truly fun and memorable event. While we fulfilled our 2020 sponsorship commitments through virtual events, no one renewed, and no new sponsors came on board. Attendance also dwindled as people experienced Zoom fatigue and existential crises due to COVID-19. Layoffs and budget cuts further impacted sponsorship prospects.

We attempted to revive in-person events as the world reopened, but it was a struggle. In April 2023, we hosted a lovely Geek Out, but without sponsorship dollars, aiming to bring people together again, and the turnout was great! We celebrated our 10th anniversary in June 2023 with another well-attended event. However, poor attendance at our next event made it clear that our events would never be the same.

The post-pandemic work landscape has changed dramatically, with most people still working from home and questioning the purpose of work. In this new reality, people are less inclined to dress up and attend networking events to find jobs that may require in-person attendance. Pre-pandemic, it was easier for people to attend our events on their way home from work, grabbing a drink, and snacks, and making new connections. This dynamic no longer exists, as attending events now requires considerable effort.

As 2024 progresses, with the world reopened but the workplace forever changed, it’s disheartening to see the lack of support for increasing women’s representation in tech. There’s still so much work to be done. Let’s not stop now. We’re cheering on other incredible organizations doing this work – AnitaB.org, Lesbians Who Tech, Girl Geek X, and more!