For the May addition of our monthly AveaCares Lunch & Learn series, we had the opportunity to learn more about PDX Women In Tech (PDXWIT), a nonprofit organization that encourages women to not just join the tech field, but also supports and empowers them to stay in tech. Megan Bigelow, PDXWIT's co-founder, spoke to us about the organization’s mission and how its members and volunteers are working to achieve it.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that by 2022, there will be 9 million jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "What we want to do is encourage girls and women to get into these jobs because they’re here for the foreseeable future, and they also commonly provide really great pay," Megan said. "We want more women in these careers to make it easier for other women to be in these careers."
The inspiration for founding PDXWIT came as a result of Bigelow attending the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference in 2011.
"I met tons of really intelligent women who were in tech-related roles. After the event was over, I was really sad because all these women went back to where they came from, which was not Portland. I really wanted to have a way to meet other women in tech, knowing they were going to be here and that I could build relationships."
10 people attended PDXWIT's first event in 2012; since then, the organization has grown to over 3000 members, received non-profit status and obtained the support of over 50 tech companies. PDXWIT puts on 4 to 6 events a month, hosts a job board, and offers a mentorship program that helps train members to be better advocates for themselves in the workplace.
Megan stressed that for the challenges faced by women in the tech field (including lack of inclusion, struggles for recognition and fair compensation) to truly change, the responsibility lies with everyone.
"We really encourage men to get involved. It's going to take all of us to make things better. If things are better for women, they're going to be better for everyone."
While she acknowledged that achieving equity in tech is a long-term objective, Megan's goal for PDXWIT is clear:
"Get as many women into tech as possible, get them to stay so they can get into leadership and start to feel more comfortable speaking out for the next generation."
As a result of the Lunch and Learn, multiple Avea female staff members plan on both attending and volunteering at future PDXWIT events. In addition, several Avea team members, both female and male, expressed interest in lending their experience and knowledge to PDXWIT's mentor program; Mark Weiland, our Director of Operations, has already been matched with a mentee.
We're also extremely excited to be hosting PDXWIT's upcoming three-part Intro to Machine Learning class starting Monday, August 14! Event details are still being worked out, but we'll share more information as we get closer to the date!
For more information on PDXWIT and their schedule of upcoming events, visit pdxwit.org.