(Photo by Theresa Regan)
Kate Krauss did not anticipate getting involved in technology when she moved to Philadelphia 15 years ago. But she did.
When she started working in communications for a friend’s Bay Area startup this past year, she noticed how female-friendly the Philadelphia tech community is compared to that of the male dominated tech scene in Silicon Valley.
Having lived in San Francisco for 10 years directly prior to relocating to Philadelphia, Krauss said she has seen a difference between the two cities and the way they treat the technology community.
“It’s not just the groups that are focused on women, it’s the whole community in Philadelphia that is really different,” Krauss said, suggesting that comes from a feminist attitude ingrained in the city years ago.
“It comes from friendliness and a charm that we have here in Philadelphia, and it kind of sends a mutual aid that I think comes out of our Quaker background. Whether you’re Quaker or not, it’s in the air here,” Krauss said. “We have hundreds of years of tradition of egalitarianism, and it influences everything we do. It’s in the water, it’s in the air, and it’s in the startup culture.”
Above, watch video of Krauss talking about the differences between San Francisco and Philadelphia in its being welcoming for women entrepreneurs.
Krauss said because of this egalitarianism, Philadelphians are more open to the idea of women becoming successful in such a male-dominated field of work, much more so than in Silicon Valley.
Philadelphia has become so much more expansive in terms of its tech scene since Krauss moved here, and that allows for a more diverse assembly of web and technology developers, including women.
Women like Corey Latislaw, who co-founded Android Alliance, a meetup specifically for Android developers, and Keya Dannenbaum, the co-founder of ElectNext, a website that helps voters see which candidates best match their political beliefs, have taken the initiative to become role models for other women, and are helping to open more doors for women in the field. The Philly Startup Leaders group, too, has woman leadership, including Chariot Solutions rep Tracey Welson-Rossman and social media consultant Gloria Bell. Popular University City incubator DreamIt Ventures features managing partner Kerry Rupp, and the local Hacks/Hackers meetup is organized by Public School Notebook web editor Erika Owens and Azavea GIS analyst Dana Bauer. TEDx Philly is largely organized by a cast of women, led by Roz Duffy, among many other initiatives in the community here.
“Philadelphia has become a cool place for young people to move into, which it wasn’t when I got here 15 years ago. Now we’re getting a lot of hipsters, we’re getting a lot of artists, and we’re getting a lot of startup people,” Krauss said.
Krauss, who currently works as the director for the AIDS Policy Project, a nonprofit organization focused on developing a cure for AIDS, came to Philadelphia to advocate for more extensive AIDS research. Within the last year, she has become more involved with the startup community.
“I’ve started to do startup events and participate in the startup community here in Philadelphia, so I’ve sort of dropped myself into this whole new world of startup people and startup events and competitions,” Krauss said.
Krauss had not had much experience with working in the field of technology prior to moving to Philadelphia, but felt welcomed when she began her work with All Together Now, a startup founded by her friend Lauren Gogarty that provides specialized software for web teams to facilitate communication and workflow.
Krauss has also taken classes devoted to teaching women how to code, a component of the Philadelphia tech scene she said she believes is really aiding in bringing more women to the community. These classes are offered through a number of female-driven groups across the city such as Web Start Women, PYStar and Girl Develop It.
“I would suggest that women learn to code no matter what they plan on doing. That doesn’t mean you have to be the most genius coder of all time, but why not [try]?” Krauss said. “You can start at any age and you can come from any background. People want to teach you here.”
Tristin Hightower and Nicole Kline, the founders of Philadelphia’s Girl Geek Dinners, agree with Krauss and said classes like these are helping the community of women in technology grow in steadily increasing numbers.
“I think Web Start Women is amazing. It’s one of the best things going for Philly,” Kline said.
The local Girl Geek Dinners group, which was founded in late 2010 from a national group, is devoted to bringing women together from all over the tech community to collaborate and discuss topics they find important in an environment they feel comfortable to share and learn in.
Hightower and Kline agree that groups like Girl Geek Dinners, working along with Web Start Women and Girl Develop it, are providing women with an outlet where they can feel free to ask questions without being degraded.
“I think [they are] helping to foster kind of a collaborative atmosphere with women. Sometimes it’s hard to ask guys. We get easily intimidated and we end up taking something as a hobby because we are like, ‘oh, we don’t know how to get better at this on our own,'” Kline said.
“That’s actually something that deterred me from tech at first â€¦ with the women that are here, [the mentality] is like, ‘you can do it, and you’re not stupid,'” said Hightower, who brought Girl Geek Dinners to Philadelphia after noticing a lack of presence among women at major tech events.
Krauss also believes women should not be discouraged when it comes to getting involved with technology.
“I would say that you don’t have to break into the tech scene here. Its here,” Krauss said. “We have lots of meetups here. They’re really friendly and the people are really sweet. You’re not going to be feeling shunned aside by a lot of unpleasant people.”
Philadelphia has many opportunities for women to get involved with the tech community, and Krauss said that she hopes other centers for technology, such as Silicon Valley, will soon become as open and welcome to women in technology as Philadelphia.
Watch a soundslides of Girl Geek Dinners attendees talking about the female scene.
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