Though women now enter professional fields such as law and medicine at nearly equal numbers to men, the tech industry—known for being on the cutting edge in other ways—lags stubbornly behind with regard to gender parity. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, while 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are filled by women, women make up only 24 percent of workers in STEM jobs.
The problem is multi-faceted: women are less likely than men to enter tech fields in the first place and, once there, are less likely to get promoted and less likely to stay. Leaders at tech behemoths like Apple and Facebook have responded to the disparity by setting specific hiring goals for women, an idea that, though lofty, isn’t likely to yield true equality for decades.
In Vermont, however, where workers are more likely to be employed in tech occupations and industries than in any other business sector women are working to change the global gender disparity in tech.
And that isn’t just the story of Vermont. That’s the story of C2.
The Green Mountain state is home to extraordinary women like Marguerite Dibble, who founded GameTheory when she was just a Junior in College, and Ann DeMarle, Director of Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center. Both women are discovering ways to use technology to address the essential issues of our time—everything from violence against women and rural poverty to literacy, medical emergencies, and political gerrymandering.
Vermonter Julie Lerman, one of just 150 Microsoft regional directors worldwide, is changing computing around the globe and making sure Vermont is at the forefront of this effort. Lerman co-founded Vermont Code Camp, was a founding board member of the Vermont Technology Alliance, and is a BTV Ignite Executive Fellow.
Vermonters Liz Shayne, Rebecca Esch and Tiffany Bluemie founded Rosie’s Girls summer camp in 2000, with just 18 middle-school girls and a hope that they could expose some of Vermont’s girls to tech trades. By 2014, it was a national week-long summer camp program where about 2,500 girls in 20 locations around the country learn about traditionally male-dominated pursuits such as welding, robotics, coding and more.
Maureen McElaney, an internationally known developer and lecturer, basically gave herself a second career when she founded a Burlington, VT, chapter of Girl Develop It (GDI)—a nonprofit helping women learn software development and career networking. And organizations like Change the Story are pushing hard for pay and employment equity for women in a variety of fields.
It’s an issue we at C2 are passionate about, because it’s such an integral part of our own founding story. Nationally, while only 5% of startups are owned by women, C2 was a women-owned business when we first opened our doors in 1993. At the time, we had four founding partners, and two were women: Carolyn Edwards and Melissa Dever. And C2 remained women-owned until 2014, when Carolyn passed away.
C2’s Cady Goudreau, Rajee George, Zoe Hart and others have carried on Carolyn and Melissa’s leadership, through involvement with GDI and other STEM initiatives.
There’s still much more work that needs to be done, in Vermont, throughout the country, and around the world. But women are still underemployed; they don’t own enough businesses; they are still the exception not the norm in STEM fields. But with educational initiatives at every level—from Rosie’s Girls to Vermont Tech’s gender equity program—the story of women and tech isn’t a fairy tale. It’s history of the future being written today.