Collective Strength aims to be Philly's no-BS networking meetup for women - Technical.ly Philly

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May 21, 2019 12:13 pm

Collective Strength aims to be Philly’s no-BS networking meetup for women

Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Katel LeDû's event series featuring "feminist realtalk about work, ambition, and belonging" will host its first event, covering money and pay negotiations, on June 5.

Women in tech.

(Photo by Christina Morillo, used via Pexels)

Mentorship is important for women in tech, and professional women more generally. But what about peer-to-peer support?

Local creatives Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Katel LeDû had already been discussing work, friendship and feminism publicly on their weekly podcast, “Strong Feelings” (previously “No, You Go“), when they came up with the idea for a meetup focused on those topics.

Enter: Collective Strength, the pair’s new monthly event series focused on “feminist realtalk about work, ambition, and belonging.” The first event, to be held on Wednesday, June 5, will cover salary negotiations, setting fair rates and shrinking the pay gap. Content strategist Karen McGrane will lead the discussion.

“We’ve been thinking about this for a while, because we regularly get emails and DMs from our podcast, Strong Feelings, where people talk about how listening to us makes them feel like they have people to talk with about their work and life challenges, and that they wish they had that kind of network in real life,” wrote Wachter-Boettcher, a content strategy consultant and the author of “Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech,” in an email to Technical.ly. “We also have a couple small groups of women we chat with about careers, from a feminist lens, in private Slack groups.”

But not everyone has outlets like that. The meetup aims to fill that gap by convening women, femme and non-binary people to discuss these issues IRL via “a different kind of networking event,” she said — “not just little plastic wineglasses and name tags, but substantial and honest conversation where we get vulnerable, get out of our industry holes (tech can feel particularly insular, I think, and it has so much to learn from other fields), and come out with something concrete: a new skill, a new confidence, or a new friend.”

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There’s a conscious distancing from surface-level formalities: Wachter-Boettcher and LeDû, who met when the former wrote a book for the latter’s A Book Apart indie publisher in 2016, are avoiding more traditional meetup features like formal presentations (and, yes, little plastic wine glasses). Instead, active participation will be encouraged, from small-group conversations to skills-building activities.

“Our events are going to dig deep, and that means we need a format that enables that,” Wachter-Boettcher said. “Our goal with this format is to really give people the chance to reflect, gain confidence talking about difficult subjects, and build trust and relationships with others.”

And why Philly? Besides that, obviously, they both live here, the duo thinks the city’s density and “down-to-earth feel” naturally supports the type of community they’re trying to create.

“We’re ambitious, sure,” Wachter-Boettcher said. “But we’re not interested in fostering a culture where women feel like they have to measure up to each other, or jockey for position on some 40-under-40 list, or be aiming for a billion-dollar startup valuation or a NYT bestselling book, to be successful and interesting. We want to celebrate many forms of ambition, in a way that’s honest and not overly polished.”

Future meetups might cover career pivoting, motherhood and work, handling toxicity in the workplace or becoming a manager, though Wachter-Boettcher said the organizers will also gather feedback on what attendees found valuable about the first event to inform future themes.

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