In the tech world, despite consistent gains by women, men still dominate center stage.
But if the vision held by the organizers of SheSays Boulder comes to pass, the tech world will see a great many more women taking the lead.
SheSays Boulder is a meetup group that started six years ago and today has about 1,500 members from the local digital marketing and startup world.
The group’s mission is to connect “amazing, rock star women” with other talented women to fuel community, inspiration, learning and opportunity – and shift the balance of leadership in the tech world to a ratio more reflective of the population, which is closer to half women, half men.
Says Mandaline Godown, co-organizer of SheSays Boulder, “One of our key tenets is creating an amazing network for women. It’s about getting more women into leadership, spotlighting awesome women who are leaders in their field, and having takeaways so whether you’re new in a field or quite high-up, there’s something you can gain from every story.”
Wednesday’s March meeting was no exception. Presenter Merredith Branscombe, founder of Leap Public Relations, shared the going “rules” of public relations and media strategy with 80 or so mostly female attendees.
And, in addition to job openings at several members’ companies, the latest offering from the group was announced: merit and needs-based $500 mini-scholarships, created in partnership with Boulder Digital Arts. If you need more skill in digital, whether you’re a new college graduate or are returning to the workforce, SheSays Boulder wants you to apply – and now. Winning recipients will be announced mid-April.
“Boulder Is Different”
SheSays Boulder is unique among the 30 or more worldwide SheSays organizations, typically in large cities like New York and London. Though the Boulder group pulls from a smaller population, it’s among the top 10 largest groups.
“We’re not like most of the other SheSays. We don’t focus solely on digital marketing, because Boulder is different,” explains Mandaline, a.k.a Mandy.
“Our mission is more focused on getting a spectrum of women throughout digital so it’s coding, entrepreneurship, design, digital marketing — a wide spectrum — and bringing them together in a room,” says Mandy, who has focused on growing membership along with co-organizer Kecia Benvenuto.
Four years ago, the two took the reins from the original founding team of the Boulder group, spearheaded by Denise Horton – now founder of SheSays Denver.
This diversity is mirrored in the co-organizers’ backgrounds. Mandy is rooted in graphic design, pitch development and is coding-literate. She’s deeply entrenched in the startup community with a focus on expanding diversity in companies. Kecia comes from the creative marketing, advertising and content creation and production world.
Together—along with the help of a take-charge leadership committee—they produce about 11 high quality events each year and continue to build membership.
Strength in Numbers
Due in part to the large membership, Mandy was invited to speak at the first-ever tech meetup at the White House last April. Organized by Meetup.com, 50 tech meetups across the U.S. were selected to attend the event, which focused on diversity and creating greater opportunity in technology.
“SheSays Boulder was one of 11 meetups asked to speak at the event. I spoke about what we’re doing and the obstacles we’re addressing,” says Mandy.
“That experience actually shifted my approach and my direction. It made me realize that the work that I do as a hobby, which is trying to get more women into leadership, is not a hobby. It’s legitimate and I’d like to do more of it,” adds Mandy.
This realization inspired her to launch ShyftCo to “focus on helping startups to think strategically about the cultures they’re creating so they are inclusive and diverse.”
In addition to ShyftCo, Mandy has a design and branding firm, BeBoldStudio.com, where she works with entrepreneurs on telling their pitch story. And, she helped launch the Vinetta Project in Colorado, which works to get funding for female tech founders.
With today’s digital communications, one key element is missing: in-person, face-to-face connection.
While employed at Facebook, co-organizer Kecia Benvenuto worked remotely for two years. “This group really kept me alive…being able to connect with community was huge. It made me feel connected to a larger world and ecosystem,” says Kecia.
“SheSays Boulder supplies that facetime and inspiration for so many people,” adds Kecia.
Another benefit that paid off for Kecia: As an organizer, she speaks in front of the group every month. Now in her new job at talent-development and mentor consulting firm, Smith and Beta, Kecia is off to London and Paris to co-lead a workshop for 50 or so people. Because of her public speaking at SheSays Boulder, she says she feels more prepared for the challenge.
The impact of SheSays Boulder is front and center in Mandy’s career, too.
“I believe that it was part of what gave me the momentum to really shift my life in a lot of awesome ways including going into a full-on coding program and launching my own business,” says Mandy.
“You are so much a measure of the people you surround yourself with and when you see examples of what’s possible and see yourself in the examples, suddenly the world opens up.”
For upcoming events, visit SheSays Boulder’s Meetup page.