In the nearly 20 years that Monette Richards has been in the computer programming industry, she’s often been the sole woman in her department.
She wants to change that — and offer a networking opportunity.
Richards said according to the latest census, women are significantly underrepresented in the engineering and computer occupations, with numbers declining 27 percent since 1990.
Women have been “deterred from following their career path with sexism within the jobs and harassment from it,” said Richards, 43, a self-proclaimed feminist activist who works in the Information Technology department at a North Canton firm. “We wanted to develop a space where women could be encouraged to code excluding the outside factors.”
Richards and her co-founder, Kevin Wirth, who designs websites, have created Akron Women in Tech, a community of women and friends who are interested in learning to code websites and mobile applications.
The group’s first free event will be on Tuesday when it hosts Wine & Code. The event will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the OSC Tech Lab at 21 East Exchange St. in Akron (on the second floor of the building with House of Hunan). RSVP at www.meetup.com/Akron-Women-In-Tech/events/192807072.
The event will be an opportunity to attract and connect learners, teachers, mentors and tech enthusiasts and start building a community, said Richards.
To start, the group has no funding — other than what Richards and Wirth are providing — though they hope to connect with some funders.
They hope to have events once or twice a month, including classes and workshops at the OSC Tech Lab, a co-working space with free Wi-Fi, which has been offered by owner Nick Petroski.
“We can work on our projects and have other people there. If you have questions, or even need encouragement or talking about your experiences with other people on the job,” said Richards.
The group also wants to make it child-friendly; the first meet-and-greet event is open to children of attendees, and they want to be able to offer child care for future events — which will be held at different times of the day.
“That’ll be a huge obstacle, not just making it child-friendly, but offering time for the mothers to work while the kids are in the same building, but just not with them,” she said.
And while Richards said she’s not opposed to men coming to the events — some have already registered — she will insist that the majority are still women.
Richards also hopes to eventually get the network involved in high schools to work with younger women.
Meghan Goetz, a marketing director for a local insurance agency, is among those signed up to attend the Wine & Code event. Goetz, who is married to Petroski, said she’s often meeting tech-minded people and wants to both serve as a liaison between the business and tech world and learn some basic coding.
“I’m constantly surrounded by the tech world, but being a biz minded person, coming into this community is intimidating. This can be my gateway to learning what they do and how they do it,” she said.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty