There are currently fewer than twenty female CTOs in the Chicago tech community. Ethos, Women Influence Chicago, and Illinois Technology Association (now part of 1871) saw the opportunity to invest in the next generation of female technologists to try to significantly increase that number.
Our objectives were to work with our partner, the ITA/1871, to create a program for mid-career female and woman-identified technologists that helped them develop the tools for empowerment and advocacy they needed to elevate their careers.
Ethos wanted to create the most comprehensive program possible, to not only help the participants develop and learn key skills, but also have the opportunity to put them into practice and receive support in their development.
The steps to getting to that level of program were detailed and numerous:
- We first conducted user interviews across UX, Engineering, Product Management, and Data Engineering to find the issues, information, and struggles that women saw as crucial in addressing to help advance their careers; these included career pathing, public speaking, sponsorship, advocacy, and mentorship.
- After interviews were finished, we went to work designing three different forms of the Accelerator which we workshopped with the WIC board to create the most ideal iteration that met all the needs from the research interviews.
- In the end, we designed the program to have four workshops covering the key topics of career growth, effective communication, management, and negotiation; monthly forums to help synthesize the workshop learning that included homework and topics from the workshops; and monthly mentor meetings and coaching sessions to provide them one-on-one support as they tried out new tools and strategies for themselves and their teams.
The approach to building the WIC Accelerator was truly a group effort, from the individuals who volunteered their thoughts in the research interviews, to the WIC board, who helped create the most ideal curriculum to address female technologists’ needs. With all their insight and feedback, the Ethos team was able to compile the research and design the learnings that would help the women in the Accelerator reach their goals.
The women found the mix of learning, support, and discussion to be immensely helpful in their careers. 16/17 of the women in the first cohort achieved the goal they set for the program, whether it was a promotion, raise, pathway into people management, and/or opportunity to be a community thought leader. Additionally, the community that developed among the participants, mentors, coaches, and facilitators, led to important bonds that expanded their networks of support.
A few, individual participants shared their personal experiences:
Nicole, Product Manager, Livly
“The [Accelerator] program was the best resource that I’ve had at this early stage in my career. Not only was I able to network and connect with like-minded women in Chicago with technical roles, but I also learned the ropes on how to be a better leader, negotiation skills, how to give and receive feedback, and so much more.
Emily, Project Engineer, mxD
“I finally have the tools to advocate for myself in the workplace and to strategically align my goals with my company’s goals. Through mentorship and my peer network, the program motivated me to seek professional opportunities I never thought I’d have the confidence to try.”
Catherine, UX Design Manager, Motorola Solutions
“This program honestly helped me understand how much I have actually learned in management and leadership, what being a good manager or leader really means, and to forget the age and years of experience; I had a unique voice and I knew what I was talking about.
The WIC Accelerator proved to be a valuable experience for women in technology across Chicago. As new cohorts pass through the program, we are looking forward to expanding the learning, network, and support for women in technology to increase the number of female CTOs and promote Chicago tech as a diverse incubator for all kinds of talent.
Interested in leveraging Ethos to help support your future leaders? Check out our Emerging Leaders program for internal teams or reach out to [email protected] for more information on WIC or other leadership offerings.