WOMEN WHO WEB
Who runs the web? Girls!
So why does society, women included, continue to think that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are reserved for men only?
Most children become aware of gender roles early on and, subconsciously, those perceived norms can influence the goals and limits they create for themselves.
Toys often reinforce some of the gender stereotypes that exist. In 1992, Mattel released a Teen Talk Barbie whose lexicon included the phrase, “Math class is tough!” It was largely criticized and eventually pulled from shelves.
Fast forward 23 years, and women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. In fact, only 30 percent of women work in the tech industry, according to a CNET article published earlier this year.
DCWW started off with a handful of women who would meet in a coffee shop to discuss all things tech. Twenty years later, it is more than 3,000 members strong. Many of DCWW’s members specialize in social media, search engine optimization, web analytics, e-marketing, graphic design and web development.
“Our founders wanted to create an inclusive space for women to come together to talk about tech,” said DCWW President Sibyl Edwards. “While things have improved for women in tech since 1995, the reality is there are a lot of women who are still not entering the field and those who do enter the field drop out at some point. So, there’s still very much a need for groups like DC Web Women.”
To help spread the mission and attract new members, DCWW’s leaders have developed several initiatives, including Girls Rock on the Web. Here, girls ages 8-12 learn more about technology in the hope that they girls will gain interest in STEM fields.
TECH THE HALLS
Within the past year, DCWW has made an effort to revamp its Outreach Committee by placing a stronger emphasis on young girls and minorities. As a result of partnering with several local STEM organizations, DCWW has managed to reach more than 400 children this year alone.
“[Our goals include] increasing the number of women in their particular field, empowering women and girls to pursue high-paying jobs in technology, and [changing the ratio of women and girls in tech],” said DCWW volunteer Ashley Holtz. “The outreach team is an integral part of DCWW and its mission. If girls are not aware of STEM careers and are not encouraged to pursue them, we will never improve the number of women in tech fields.”
DCWW works to ensure that women who are currently in tech feel supported, while girls who may be interested in tech have the proper resources they need. However, the ladies at DCWW also know how to let loose and have fun once in a while. Tech the Halls, an annual holiday party that celebrates the DC tech community, is DCWW’s biggest event of the year.
“It’s more of a networking event since there are around eight different tech groups that usually join us. You don’t have to be a member of DC Web Women or any of the groups represented to attend – anybody can go,” Edwards said. “We’ve found that a lot of people find out about DC Web Women through Tech the Halls because it’s become so popular.”
For Edwards – and the rest of her colleagues for that matter – being a part of the DCWW team is more than just a job. Prior to becoming DCWW’s president, Edwards worked as a volunteer at different levels of the nonprofit.
At a time when Edwards felt isolated as a tech woman, DCWW granted her the opportunity to meet other women in the industry that she could relate and connect to. She’s now on a mission to inspire a new generation of women and girls to not only rethink their role in technology but make their mark on it as well.
“The reason I’ve stayed with DC Web Women for as long as I have is because of the simple fact that it continues to contribute to my life,” she said. “When I first entered the tech industry, I didn’t have any mentors, so DC Web Women has been a way for me to give back to other women in tech.”