The most amazing thing happened last week.

An 11-year-old girl tagged along to what she thought would be a boring tech event, and came out of it talking nonstop about math and how amazing it was.

Blair-GiesenThe girl was my daughter, Bella. Math is a subject she’s struggled with. She has worked very hard at it, but it doesn’t come easily. She recently shared with me that someone told her she ultimately wouldn’t even use most of the math she is learning. So when I asked her if she wanted to go to a local tech event with me, I had no idea what to expect.

What happened at Co-Merge downtown Wednesday night was a parent’s greatest wish come true.  Geek Girl brought together some of San Diego’s top women in startups to spread the message of the strength of women in technology. Women from local startups to investors told how they got into technology and shared how other women can succeed in technology.

The panel of women included moderator Shawn Bridgeman of Embarke, Liz Hedstrom co-founder and creator of WeddingHappy, Marnie Zoglman senior software operations manager at Qualcomm, Juliet Oberding, co-founder of Predictably Well and Allison Long Pettine, president of Crescent Ridge Partners Ventures – a great mix of executives, software developers and investors talking about how they got to where they’re at.

San Diego is becoming a great place for tech and startups and women are a big part of it.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

The Geek Girl event focused on the so-called pipeline issue – getting girls and women involved in technology at a young age. Women earn more than half of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but only start 3 percent of new tech companies. Women, therefore, represent a nearly untapped potential when it comes to creating new tech businesses and contributing to a vibrant tech startup scene.

Several women at the event said women sometimes shy away from developing the tech knowledge critical to establishing a business and even fewer pursue tech as a business concept.

“While there are some hardcore female tech enthusiasts, the majority of the female population isn’t wired that way,” said Leslie Fishlock, CEO of Geek Girl.  “Even today, girls are not pushed to do what guys do.”

“A manager of mine looked at me and said, ‘you’re ready to be a manager’ and that was the push I needed,” said Zoglman.

Geek Girl and Fishlock have been trying to be part of that push locally.

So has Chic CEO, founded in San Diego by Stephanie Burns, a free online resource for current and aspiring female entrepreneurs. It provides women with the ground-level information they need to start a business.

And, women in startups hit the same walls as everyone else, namely funding. Another one of the speakers, Pettine, is trying to provide it for San Diego-based startups.

“Six out of seven of my startup portfolio are San Diego companies,” she said. Several of the executives at those companies are women, and Pettine is an important part of San Diego’s startup growth.

But, before there can be funding, there has to be an idea.

Oberding suggested a few ways to spur girls’ interest, including a hack-a-thon where they could build their first app.

My daughter Bella, who wasn’t playing on her phone (she’s a huge app lover and knows what she likes) leaned over to me and said, “Now that sounds really cool.”

    This article relates to: Active Voice, Business, News, Technology

    Written by Blair Giesen

    Blair Giesen is a VOSD contributor, serial entrepreneur and Zambig.com founder. Join the conversation by following him on Twitter or emailing him at blair@zambig.com.

    8 comments
    Shawn Elizabeth Bridgeman
    Shawn Elizabeth Bridgeman subscriber

    Thanks for the mention, Blair. Encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and choose them for their careers is necessary for tapping all the talent we need to innovate in our economy. On the other end of the pipeline, some tech companies are already really good at promoting and supporting women in tech, and many more have the potential to contribute positively to that. Women face some nuanced problems in tech culture, but also some very obvious ones, and we (the tech and business community) need to work to fix the glaring issues in order to pave the way for solving the whole pipeline problem.

    Gaby Dow
    Gaby Dow subscribermember

    Great article Blair. What business person wouldn't jump at "a nearly untapped potential when it comes to creating new tech businesses?"

    But of course you understand it's about so much more. It is encouraging to see female entrepreneurs, engineers and managers make such important strides toward realizing their full potential and it all starts with little girls like yours.

    amason
    amason subscriber

    Hi Blair,

    I was very happy to see your piece on getting girls interested in technology.
    My name is Ange Mason and I am the Education Outreach Manager at the San
    Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD. Each year since 2006, we have been offering
    StudentTECH workshops for boys and girls and we currently reach over 300 students each summer.
    However, only a small portion of girls sign up, perhaps 20%.

    This year, we have a new program that we are calling GirlTECH San Diego (girltechsandiego.org).
    We encourage girls to attend all of our workshops (and we have an app development workshop!) but
    we have two specific to girls (boys are also welcome). They are:

    Summer Institute for High School Students: AnimationCreation: Bring Out Your Creative Side and Create Your Own Animation with Professional Video Production Tools, Grades 9-12, June 23-July 3, 2014 (two weeks)
    Summer Institute for Middle School Students: Have a Blast with Ocean Science! Using Modern Technology to Understand the Ocean and Marine Life, Grades 6-8, July 21-25, 2014 (one weeks)
    I hope that you will find this information interesting and would consider spreading the word.

    Best wishes,

    Ange
    amason@ucsd.edu

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    " An 11-year-old girl tagged along to what she thought would be a boring tech event, and came out of it talking nonstop about math and how amazing it was."

    Yep. We parents live for that stuff.

    Amazing the power of third person influence on our Kids.

    Nice piece Blair