After hearing several women in tech, smart women with bright futures, talk about leaving their jobs, Jennifer Cloer, Founder/Lead Consultant, reTHINKit PR, decided to launch the “Chasing Grace Project,” a six-episode documentary series about women in tech. The trailer debuted at the recent Linux Foundation Diversity Empowerment Summit in LA.
“A young, very talented female programmer recently told me: ‘I don’t want to leave tech but after a year into my first job, I’m considering it,’” said Cloer. So she asked herself, “What can I do to help”
There’s so much at stake, she said. “It take all of us to build a future together,” she said. “This is not just a women’s issue.”
Women leave tech at twice the rate of men, according to the latest National Council on Women in Technology. Over time, hostile work environments will drive away a much as 50 percent of women working in STEM, according to a Harvard Business Review study.
When combined with the projections that computing jobs will more than double by 2020 along with the shortage of competent engineers, the fleeing women become a serious problem.
Enter The Chasing Grace Project. The six-episode documentary series focuses on a range of topics within the Women in Tech (WIT) narrative. Named after US Navy rear admiral Grace Hopper, who was a leading pioneer in computers, the episodes will cover a range of topics including female entrepreneurship, how to access to the best jobs, online harassment. Male allies will be included, like this male founder with a female co-founder who was dismayed to discover how hostile tech is to women by watching the way she was treated.
The series will show how we pave the way forward, said Cloer. “The women we’ve talked to love tech,” she explained. “They love to build; they love to manage projects; they love to bring communities together; they love to invent and innovate. They want to be here. At least for now.”
The series tells the stores of everyday women in tech, not the ones who make the headlines, but the ones doing the day-to-day work. Cloer hopes that by actually hearing their stories of adversity “in gritty detail,” we can also see how they are rising above these difficulties, and paving their own paths to successful careers. So maybe we can learn how to do better and stop the brain drain.
Nithya Ruff, a long-time Silicon Valley technology and open source executive, joined the project to pay it forward.
She made her career in the open source tech space. “There’s a value to my longevity and my myriad experiences in big and small companies across Silicon Valley for many, many years,” Ruff said in an interview, “and in persisting, driving, succeeding in that space.”
To be a leader, she said, you need to see other people like you and watch how they handle being a leader. You need archetypes and roll models, and you need people you feel comfortable with to go ask business culture questions.
Her hope is that younger women coming into technology can have blueprints, success stories, and roll models, other women that they can see. “This lets them know this is an industry for me, this is somewhere I can succeed,” Ruff stated.
Cassidy Williams, a software developer interviewed for the film, said that she loves working in tech. “As crazy as the community might be,” she said, “I’ve always loved building things. I want to be there on the front lines helping this community grow.” At the same time, she talked about working at a startup with an all-male board and the men wielding the power were all male. A lot of the men in power were less experienced that the women reporting to them. Women who could have been promoted. But weren’t.
Williams says in the video clip that being a woman in technology feels like walking a tightrope. You can’t be too female, she said, because being so makes it so you can’t always relate to your coworkers. “Sometimes you feel like you’re a part of this fun, nerdy group, and other parts of it where you’re like, I’m so alone.”
Entrepreneur Katheryn Brown talked about the inequities from the start. “If you’re a young guy and you’re coming out of Stanford, wearing a hoodie, you can have very high aspirations and be very rebellious people think you’re a super-genius. If you’re a woman and you do the same thing, they think you’re a bitch. It’s a big problem.”
There’s a wage gap, she said, but there’s also a perks and respect gap, which is worth just as much as money.
In the trailer, Ruff said, “The only way to change a bro culture is to be in it.” If women aren’t there, if they’re not in positions of leadership, nothing changes.
“Chasing Grace to me means embracing the complete power and grace of who we are as women,” she said. “And to know your time is here, your time is now, and to be everything you can be right now.”
The trailer is live, first episode is expected to come out in January. The Linux Foundation and the Cloud Foundry Foundation are early sponsors, but Cloer is looking for more sponsors to finish all six episodes.
Feature image: Jennifer Cloer.