Supporting Women-Led Tech Firms

OPINION
By Melissa Harris
Chicago Tribune.

It has been nearly a year since Chicago’s tech hub 1871 announced it was creating an incubator for female-led startups.

Then it stalled … just like these dots … slow … you … down.

The only tangible activity seems to have been the changing of the name last summer, from FemTECH, it’s original billing, to WiSTEM.

Little more than a week ago, my colleague Amina Elahi reported that 1871 leadership had decided the WiSTEM incubator would not be an incubator after all. It would be a program.

That implied female-run companies would not be diverted into a different track or office space within 1871. It also implied the services dedicated to these women would be less robust than initially broadcast.

That all might not be a problem if the program actually offered, well, a program.

Or had an advisory board.

Or a leader.

This utter neglect leaves the impression that 1871’s leadership is more concerned with interior design than the women striving inside.

In recent months, Sittercity founder Genevieve Thiers and other women on the board of 1871’s parent organization have crafted a broad presentation explaining the problems women face from start to finish in the technology sector.

It starts with young girls being steered away from the sciences and too often ends with smart, ambitious 20- and 30-somethings wondering why no investor will pay them heed.

1871 Chief Executive Howard Tullman and Chief Operating Officer Tom Alexander still have the unfinished job of selecting mentors, forming an advisory board and deciding which problems WiStem is going to tackle.

Priority No. 1 should be helping women-led companies with investor research.

Help them identify men and women who have knowledge of or interest in startups in their sector and make the introductions.

Would that help?

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