In 2012, a group of women working in tech and entrepreneurship recognized a need — a need to help women working in tech, on both the technical and business sides of the industry, have a place to come together, expand their networks, learn from one another and be inspired by each other.
There were a lot of technology and developer conferences and a lot of women’s conferences, but there was not a conference where women, no matter what role they played in technology, were coming together. So we founded the conference we wanted to go to, the Women in Tech Summit.
The Women in Tech Summit has grown from an intended one-time, one-day conference managed entirely by a volunteer team (which changed year to year) to an annual multi-city, multi-day conference managed by a small staff with the aid of volunteer local advisory committees and a commitment to being the primary fundraiser for TechGirlz. All in just five years! We have grown WITS like countless bootstrapped startups before us: on a shoestring budget, making the most of the resources we have available, with the help of friends and generous supporters, and working hard to deliver the best product possible.
But as everyone who has a startup or writes software or does anything technical knows, it never quite as easy as just figuring out where there’s a need. You will go through multiple product iterations. Each year, we refine our programming and the logistics. There are always going to be bugs that have to be fixed, lessons to be learned, especially through trial and error, and a lot of growing pains. We experienced this with our second expansion into the Washington, D.C. market. We made a mistake and we had to figure out the best way to correct it. We had to listen to our potential “customers,” figure out their issues with our product and come up with a solution that addressed their issues while maintaining the integrity of our programming and mission. (Technical.ly wrote about that here and so did we here.)
We have also faced some unique challenges in organizing an all-women’s event. We have had to find answers to questions like:
- Do we hold the event during the week or on a weekend? When are women most likely to attend? We’ve learned that answer is different in every city. We still ask this question in a survey after every event.
- Do we allow men to attend or speak? We made a decision early on that we are a women’s conference. We market to women. We design programming focused on women. But we also realize that equality has to mean equality for all. So yes, sometimes there may be men speaking and sometimes men will attend. We will not discriminate.
- We had to learn to accept that we will never please everyone because everyone’s situation is different. (Although that one is not unique to women’s conferences. It is good advice for pretty much everything in life.)
- And many other questions that are unique to running an event about, for and focused on women.
We have made all our decisions about programming, logistics, marketing, attendees, etc., based on some simple principles that make the Women in Tech Summit unique. That makes it why you should attend and encourage your colleagues and employees to attend. That makes it the conference we wanted to attend.
One of the things that our growth has allowed us to do is to formalize a very important relationship. The Women in Tech Summit not only supports women working in technology. We also support the next generation of #womenintech as a fundraiser for the nonprofit TechGirlz. TechGirlz provides free, open source workshops to inspire middle-school age girls to explore the possibilities of technology for their everyday lives and their future careers.
In 2017, the Women in Tech Summit will be five cities and we hope to see you there:
- Washington, D.C. (#WITSDC) — March 24 at the Washington Post
- Philadelphia (#WITSPHL) — a half-day of workshops on April 21 and the full-day conference on April 22
- Boston (#WITSNE) — July 22 at General Assembly
- Denver (#WITSCO) — fall 2017 (date and location TBA)
- Raleigh-Durham (#WITSNC) — Nov. 11 at the Frontier at Research Triangle Park
And just for Technical.ly readers, we have a discount code that can be used on tickets to any of the WITS events. Use code TLY17 for 20 percent off.
We’re also raffling off a free ticket. Sign up for the Technical.ly DC daily newsletter and enter DCSUMMIT into the code field. We’ll notify the winner by Wednesday, March 22.
See you at WITS!
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