(Courtesy photos; image by Holly Quinn)
This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Women in Tech month.
Newark’s Blue Blaze Associates is something you don’t often see in the tech world — a digital firm with a leadership team that is 100 percent women.
It wasn’t by design.
“Over the years, we have had different folks on our core team, both men and women, and it just so happens that in the last year our team is all women now,” said Sandy Taccone in an interview with Technical.ly that included all four members of its leadership: Taccone, managing partner and creative director; Wendy Scott, senior partner and marketing director; Vicky Tosh-Morelli, project manager and web developer; and Cate Cherry, web developer and visual designer.
Women make up less than a third of the leadership positions in many of the major tech companies, according to Statista. One of the reasons for the gap may have to do with the fact that, according the Harvard Business Review, 41 percent of women who enter tech fields wind up leaving them — a stat brought to Scott’s attention via a Medium article by Rachel Thomas called “If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem you haven’t been paying attention.”
“It talks about the percentage of women who enter tech and don’t stay, because the culture doesn’t support them,” she said.
As a result, the pool of women in tech who are past their 20s — and of the more experienced ages that generally hold leadership positions — dwindles.
"What we find is that once people have some idea of what a tech person is, once they know us, it becomes a non-issue."
“One of the things that we’ve done as a women-owned company is we’ve created a culture that both women and men enjoy working in,” Scott said. “We’re very collaborative, we’re not a competitive atmosphere, not with each other or with our clients.”
In the larger tech ecosystem, of course, there’s still a gender gap.
“I don’t think it’s closing any time soon in this country,” said Taccone. “Women are challenged in the tech industry, but, surprisingly, what we find is that once people have some idea of what a tech person is, once they know us, it becomes a non-issue.”
It can still throw people, even other women, off guard at times.
“I was freelancing for a company a few years ago in Seattle,” said Cherry. “We met up in Princeton — and it was a woman — and her first reaction was ‘Huh. You’re not at all what I thought.’ Was that a compliment?”
“My job is a lot of new business development, so I’m often having those first conversations with people,” said Scott. “And I work hard at building that trust and building confidence in our team. Being someone who is not fresh out of school means that I have wealth of experience and have developed some soft skills to develop relationships.”
Experience is something the whole core team has — and while being a non-millennial woman in tech is less common than it should be, it has its advantages.
“None of us are young enough to be digital natives,” said Scott, “we’ve had to constantly relearn and retool our skills as tech has changed around us. So when we come in with some shiny new solution for a client that they have to learn, we know what that feels like.”
"Don't discount the experiences you already have because you can apply them in so many ways."
For women with more life experience in general, tech is still a viable option, said Tosh-Morelli.
“Don’t discount the experiences you already have because you can apply them in so many ways,” she said. “I have a friend who went from retail management to supervising a technology health desk, because of she knew how to manage people. Some people sell themselves short — their diversity of experiences can be applied in a lot of different ways.”
“There is something to be said for having people who bring different things to the table, whether they’re young, middle and end of career,” said Scott. “I think it’s a type of diversity.”
“From a tech perspective, we know how dramatically the tech world has changed in the last 10 to 20 years,” said Taccone. “Ten or 20 years ago we couldn’t even imagine doing what we’re doing now because it didn’t exist and it wasn’t in anyone’s imaginations. What is it that’s not even in our imaginations yet that is going to be required for jobs 10 years from now?”
Blue Blaze is partnering with News4Women for an April 11 event at the Delaware Art Museum, “Conversations with Women Making a Difference in Delaware: Claiming our Seat at the Table.” The event will feature a conversation led by NEWS4Women founder Carol Arnott-Robbins, with Michelle Taylor (president and CEO of United Way of Delaware), Renata Kowalczyk (managing director for Wilmington Renaissance Corporation) and Kyle Evans Gay, Esq. (attorney at the law firm of Connolly Gallagher).
“We had our first one in February, and people were excited about it,” said Taccone. “We’ve been very intentional in representing diversity on the stage with our panelists. The folks in our audience were in their 20s to 70s. We ended up having this really, really rich conversation.”
For more information about the event, click here.
Girls Who Code summer program is returning to Wilmington — and it’s free
1on1: A marketing pro and UX designer talk digital nomadism
First State Fintech Lab partners with TechGirlz to bring middle school workshops
Wilmington’s STEM Queen wins T-Mobile Changemaker grant
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Delaware