For years men have dominated the tech industry, but Chicago’s nonprofit incubator for tech start up 1871 is doing its part to change that. 1871 is a collaborative space for Chicago’s brightest digital designers, engineers and entrepreneurs looking to shape the modern world. Adding to that goal is 1871’s much anticipated program for women in tech called WiSTEM.
What it is
WiSTEM is short for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This program started as an incubator and has recently undergone a rebrand from its former title, FEMtech. Instead, the program’s goal is to create more opportunities and resources for women in the tech industry. WiSTEM is tailored to help overcome the challenges that female entrepreneurs may face. Its membership includes many of Chicago’s top female (and male) business leaders. Thirteen women were chosen as members and will start their participation in the program immediately, with a curriculum beginning in September that should span three months. From now until September, members will determine their areas of focus and begin meeting with potential tech and finance partners.
“A significant component of the work of [Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center] and 1871 involves fostering diversity and inclusion in the technology and entrepreneurial communities,” said Laura Ferris Anderson, CEC Treasurer and Chief of Staff at the Office of the Midwest Chairman of JPMorgan Chase. “WiSTEM is a key resource for supporting women entrepreneurs, and we believe that more women will be inspired to develop businesses with the launch of the program.”
What it can do
Along with Chicago’s brightest come 1871’s many perks as well. Membership includes access to the company’s top university partners including the University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. In addition, members have access to capital and exposure through the incubator’s connections.
The program is a part of Google for Entrepreneurs’ #40Forward initiative, committing $1 million to 40 startup-focused organizations with the goal of increasing the representation of women in their tech communities. In addition, WiSTEM is also supported by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation and the Motorola Mobility Foundation. WiSTEM will be centered around three pillars: connecting female entrepreneurs with capital, tech resources and mentorship in hopes to generate change in the gender gap within the tech industry.
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