Diversity & Inclusion
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GET Cities expands to DC to build pathways for women in technology

Gender Equality in Tech Cities works in areas including entrepreneurship, industry and academia. “We need technology that looks like the people it seeks to serve,” said national director Leslie Smith.

GET Cities has a focus on bolstering underserved female communities. (Courtesy photo)
Correction: This post was updated to clarify programming offered via Break Through Tech and Leslie Lynn Smith's title. (3/24/21, 12:25 p.m.)

Gender Equality in Tech Cities (GET Cities) is more focused on human potential than cities — specifically, female potential. The initiative, which was piloted in Chicago and is now being rolled out in D.C., aims to make a significant mark on the future of women in tech. The effort will continue its mantra of helping not only women of color interested in computer science careers, but also trans and non-binary tech founders.

Armed with a $50 million gift from Melinda Gates’ social equity-focused incubator Pivotal Ventures, GET Cities uses a three-pronged approach to bolster underserved female communities, especially Black and Brown communities. Since its debut in early 2020, GET has been working to advance future careers under the pillars of entrepreneurship, industry and academia. For example, toward the aim of the first pillar, the initative’s Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG) in Chicago tackles issues such as democratizing access to venture capital and building pathways for women of color to own their own tech businesses.

Leslie Lynn Smith, national director of GET Cities at SecondMuse, told Technical.ly that the intiative is “focused on supporting women broadly,” pointing out that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women of color.

“I think we will have an accelerated rollout in D.C. because of everything we learned in Chicago,” Smith said. “…We only hope as the world opens up our momentum increases.”

There is no plan to open a specific brick and mortar presence for GET in D.C., but rather to incorporate the local initiative into its efforts this year.

For example, in concert with George Mason University and the University of Maryland, GET Cities and partner Break Through Tech will incentivize young women into tech careers by offering paid, three-week internships during the university’s academic year recess, and what are called winter and summer guilds. Specifically, these guilds are introductory-level one-to two-week paid workshops offering first-year and other underclass women with little or no computer experience the opportunity to take computer science classes.

“We need technology that looks like the people it seeks to serve, or we will miss something by not having included them in the process,” Smith said.

In the inaugural fellowship program in Chicago, one success story has been Cristal Casellas, who works for Deloitte Global Technology Services (GTS) as an IT project manager. A first-generation college graduate from Penn State, she came onboard last year as a GTS intern. The scholar, who earned bachelor’s degrees in telecommunications, Spanish and Information Sciences and Technology, served as part of the executive board for the Puerto Rican Student Association and has worked for the independent LGBTQ+ production company Ballroom Throwbacks.

“The GET Fellowship has connected me with people with the same mission as me. I get to have conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech space and work towards a solution,” Casellas said.


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