It's no secret that there's a serious gender gap in the technology field. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census data from the last several years show that women account for less than 30 percent of the workers in computer- and math-related occupations. Even in the startup world, the overwhelming majority of tech founders are male.
E-commerce analytics firm RJMetrics confirmed this in its recent analysis of global technology Meetups. Based on data the company downloaded and analyzed from Meetup's public API, just 29 percent of the overall Meetup tech community is female, and women lead only 22 percent of tech Meetups. Certain U.S. cities, particularly those with female mayors, have a much higher percentage of women in tech. Those cities include Las Vegas (64.81 percent); Oakland, California (46.80 percent); and Miami (40.33 percent). But overall, most national and global tech communities follow the "boys' club" standard.
Anita Andrews, vice president of client analytics services at RJMetrics, said that these statistics are a good starting point to encourage productive conversations about the state of the technology industry and the role women play in it. [5 Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face (and How to Overcome Them)]
"The reasons keeping more females from getting involved in tech are complex," Andrews wrote in a blog post for RJMetrics. "They range from the [male-dominated] culture of the industry to educational systems that discourage women from pursuing STEM programs."
Solving this problem isn't just beneficial to women who want good, high-paying jobs, Andrews said; it's also beneficial for the entire tech industry. So what can be done about it? As a first step, Andrews advised seeking out and attending local industry events and informal gatherings for tech entrepreneurs.
"If I were a 20-something female interested in tech, I'd go to a Meetup to get a lay of the land," she told Business News Daily.
Aside from the networking opportunities, one of the greatest advantages of attending events like tech Meetups is getting the chance to learn from entrepreneurs in all different stages of the business lifecycle.
"You might be sitting in the same room as someone who is starting a company on nights and weekends, someone who quit their job to work on the business, someone who just got funding, and someone who sold their company," said Robert Moore, co-founder and CEO of RJMetrics.
Andrews and Moore shared some advice for making the most of a tech event, especially for female entrepreneurs in the field.
Set a goal for yourself. The worst thing you can do with your time at an event is just show up, listen to the speakers and go home without speaking to anyone else, Moore said. It's important to set a goal for yourself, whether it's to make a lot of new contacts, or just identify one or two people who can serve as mentors for you. Andrews noted that with Meetups specifically, you can view the list of attendees beforehand, which can help you research and decide on the best contacts to make.
"Find people that both connect with you on a personal level and have relevant experiences to help you out with your questions [about your business]," Moore said.
Don't be too protective of your idea. Andrews said he has observed some less-seasoned entrepreneurs hoard information about their startups at tech events because they think their idea is so unique that someone will steal it if they share. She reminded new startup founders that being overly stingy, or even arrogant about their business ideas will only hurt them.
"A lot of what anyone is doing isn't all that unique," Andrews said. "It's all about how people and technology come together. [Tech events] are an opportunity for you to get something valuable [from others] as you build your business."
Find a balance. While attending events can be a great first step for new entrepreneurs, Moore noted that these events can also waste your time if you're not careful. You need to be working on your business the majority of the time, so don't go to every single Meetup you find just because it's related to your industry. Figuring out the right balance and being thoughtful about how you spend your time at events is important, Moore said.
If there aren't any tech-focused events for entrepreneurs in your area, Andrews suggested starting an event yourself, even if it's just in an online format.
"If there's nothing, try doing something," she said. "Interest in tech is everywhere, and it's almost guaranteed to grow."
Originally published on Business News Daily