Mayor Ivy Taylor and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff will introduce a panel discussion about the local tech industry next Tuesday, March 1, 11:30 a.m. at Rackspace headquarter's event center, but what's unique about this particular luncheon in San Antonio is that, for once, the conversation will be dominated by women.
"It's an opportunity to network, learn from each other, and learn together," said Marina Gavito, executive director of the local tech advocacy organization TechBloc. "We want to celebrate that each of our roles is critical to moving San Antonio’s tech ecosystem forward.”
Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased here and are expected to sell out soon. Whatever money isn't used for lunch and logistics will go directly to the tech and leadership development nonprofit Girls Inc., which provides after-school STEM programming for girls 6-18 years old.
Men are of course invited and encouraged to attend, Gavito added.
The panel, moderated by Rackspace Chief Marketing Officer Carla Sublett, will include local tech company executives coming from various backgrounds and expertise: WP Engine Chief Financial Operator April Downing, VentureLab Founder Cristal Glangchai, and Strasburger and Price LLP Partner Debra Innocenti. Find out more about the panelists here.
The marketing, finance, entrepreneurial, and legal fields the panel represents all have their place in the tech ecosystem without necessarily being tech-orientated. It's this diversity of roles that the event, organized by a TechBloc community member planning committee, hopes to highlight, Gavito said.
For the first of what will likely be a series of focused events, she said, "we wanted to tackle the image of women in tech."
There are dozens of angles and aspects that could be discussed on the topic – salary negotiation, discrimination, work/life balance, etc. – but Gavito said the goal for the first installation was to simply connect the community and build awareness that it even exists.
"All of us are fully aware of the problem," Gavito said. "I didn't want this (event) to be disheartening because the numbers (are bad)."
The technology industry has been a male dominated field – like most STEM fields – since the beginning. From older men that are used to the established system and simply aren't used to working with women to the brogrammers, defined eloquently by Urban Dictionary as "a programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy," the industry has a bad rap for how women are treated.
"I don't want us to stay there or feel overwhelmed – (instead) look around say, '(wow) there are a lot of us,'" Gavito said.
Attendees will walk out of the event with a list of resources for women to plug into: women-specific tech advocacy Meetups, STEM related camps for children, and more.
There are about 300 seats total for the event and 98 remained available for purchase at time of writing.
Tickets include lunch and a limited edition Women of TechBloc T-shirt – in women sizes only. Sponsorships are still available.
*Top image: TechBloc Executive Director Marina Gavito at her desk in Geekdom. Photo by Iris Dimmick.