In 2016, Alaina Shearer founded Women in Digital in Columbus Ohio. Just two years later, the member-based organization had grown into a network of 27 chapters across the U.S., including a Philadelphia chapter that launched during this year’s Philly Tech Week with more than a few Delaware ties.
After the success of the #PTW18 Women in Digital, I sat down with Collie Turner of the Tapp Network, who also happens to be the Vice President of the Board for WiD Philly. Delaware Innovation Week was still months away – why not do it in Delaware? Even if it doesn’t wind up being a standalone market, the Philly market, as it stands, includes Wilmington. The women here should know what it’s about, and that they can join.
When DIW18 came, Shearer made her first trip to Delaware, ready to lead the very first Women in Digital meeting in the First State. It capped off the Women in DE Innovation and Technology Day.
In the green room (actually, Tapp Network’s office at The Mill), Shearer sat down with the members of a panel she would be moderating before the official meeting, including Mona Parikh, Jocelyn Harper, Catherine Burch and myself. After pitching a few thought-provoking questions for the panel, the conversation settled into familiar territory for professional women – to change, or not to change, your surname after marriage.
For Parikh, keeping her name meant holding on to a cultural identity her husband doesn’t share; Burch simply preferred the sound of her husband’s name. Shearer’s enthusiastic support of each woman’s decision brought to light the reason her leadership, and, by extension, the organization she founded, has been successful: No one gets torn down.
“When we leave competition at the door and lift each other up the ladder, the tables aren’t just turned – they’re flipped,” says the WiD mission statement. It might sound simple, but experiencing a Women in Digital meeting is something pretty unique: women coming together to address problems, whether they’re individual or communal.
Shearer runs meetings in a strict, organized manner that might seem overly rigid at first.
“Let me stop you right there,” she says to participants more than once, before asking them to rephrase as a question or refocus a comment. The format – a democratic session that revolves around “asks” and “gives” – matters. And, as the meeting continues, it’s clear to see that it’s a format that works.
Regular meetings are members-only, and happen once a month (in Philly, they’re held the third Thursday of the month at Strangelove’s, 216 South 11th Street; with enough interest from women Delaware, meetings will be periodically held in Wilmington as well). The rest of the time, members interact on the Women in Digital Slack, where the asks and gives are virtual and the networking is constant.
“I’ve made so many connections on the Slack,” said Turner. “I’ve found clients, potential business partners and employees.” Tapp’s recently-hired Influencer of Change Nicole Stout is a fellow WiD board member, for one.
You can learn all about the organization and join up here. The founding membership rate of $25 a month is expiring on January 1, after which new memberships will cost $40 a month.
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