Uber partners with Girls Who Code to fight for greater diversity in tech

LinkedIn

Uber is announcing today a multi-year partnership with the nonprofit Girls Who Code. As part of the deal, Uber is donating $1.2 million to Girls Who Code over the next three years. The money will go towards growing more after school and immersion programs for young girls to learn tech at an earlier age and the organization estimates that 60,000 more girls will gain access to these programs as a result of the deal.

While this initiative and the timing reads as another attempt by Uber to try and get good press after a series of PR disasters, at least the money is going toward a good cause. Uber engineers are also going to volunteer at Girls Who Code local chapters to help set up coding workshops and mentorship programs. And Uber also has another $1.8 million left in its diversity fund for the next three years that it plans to spend on other organizations that are similar to Girls Who Code.

To ensure the deal goes smoothly, Uber’s Chief Branding Officer Bozoma Saint John is also joining Girls Who Code’s board of directors. Saint John, who was hired by Uber away from Apple only a month before Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down, has been perceived by many as someone who might be able to help address Uber’s diversity problem, a problem that the entire tech industry faces as well. “Now more than ever it’s important to see strong female leadership in the tech industry,” Reshma Saujani, CEO & Founder of Girls Who Code, said. “Bozoma exemplifies this.”

Continue onto The Verge to read the complete article.

NASA’s Real Life ‘Hidden Figure’ On How To Advance Women In STEM

LinkedIn
christyl johnson from nasa

“There are so many women that are capable, smart, sharp and good at what they do. What they are lacking is the opportunity to sit across the table from the other minds that are coming up with the innovative solutions,” says Dr. Christyl Johnson, NASA’s Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments.

Dr. Johnson joined NASA in the summer of 1985 and over the years she has dedicated her efforts to support young women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.)

Described as a ‘modern figure’ Dr. Johnson is regularly likened to the characters in the movie Hidden Figures. The film portrays the experience of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson – three talented African-American women – who worked at NASA Langley in 1961.

The movie tackles important issues like institutional racism and sexism.  Dr. Johnson says it highlights the importance of diversity in innovation. “If anyone wants to make leaps and advances in their organization it is paramount that they bring different perspectives to the table,” she says.

In this interview, Dr. Johnson shares the lessons she has learned throughout her career at NASA and how each of us can support the advancement of women in STEM.

Michelle King: Do you see yourself in the movie Hidden Figures?

Dr. Johnson: Although things have significantly improved at NASA since the times represented in Hidden Figures, I too have experienced similar struggles with racism and sexism.  I resonate with the women in the movie because I see them as strong African American women who were determined to succeed despite their circumstances. That determination is what has gotten me to where I am today. NASA has identified me as a ‘modern figure’, so I hope that I and the other ‘modern figures’ continue to inspire our young girls to see themselves in that movie, and in STEM careers.

King: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in your career as a woman in STEM?

Dr. Johnson: One of the biggest challenges I have had as a woman in STEM is breaking into the “boys network.” For many years at NASA, and other scientific organizations the makeup has been mostly white males. Even when women bring unique solutions to the table, it can take twice as much work for them to gain the respect of their male counterparts.  I can recall being in meetings and asking a question only to have the male answering the question look at the other males in the room while answering my question.

I am fortunate that NASA has been at the forefront of supporting women in technical fields, as shown in the movie Hidden Figures. With the support of some of my male and female mentors, I have grown and blossomed at NASA. With all of that said, we still have a little way to go for women to have an equal seat at the table.  Not only do the appropriate organizational policies need to be in place, but appropriate, respectful behavior must be the norm – starting with the leadership at the top.

King: How do we ensure that women have an equal seat at the table?

Dr. Johnson: We need to make sure women have high visibility assignments. So many times you hear people say that, ‘We didn’t have any good women candidates.’  Even if we were to have diverse selection panels to ensure fairness in the selection process, you can’t hire women if they have not had those high-profile assignments that show their leadership capability.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Here’s how NASCAR’s top female engineer is giving back to her native Puerto Rico

LinkedIn

In the über-macho, rough-and-tumble world of race car driving, the top female engineer in NASCAR is blazing quite a path and using it to give back to her native Puerto Rico.

“When I went to the university it was mostly guys, so the fact that I’m in a job where it’s mostly guys seems normal to me,” said Alba Colón, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Program, General Motors’ most visible racing program.

Colón oversees the engineers who test the engines and designs for the NASCAR drivers. “I fell in love with drag racing and I didn’t realize at the time that I was the first female, the first Latin American,” said Colón, who describes herself as a “worker bee” who is aware of her pioneering role.

“Every day I go to my job and I think, people are looking because you are representing something that is not the usual thing,” she told NBC News. “I take this job with a lot of pride.”

Colón is a graduate of the prestigious engineering program at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus, in the western part of the island. UPR-Mayagüez has long been known for its science and math degrees and is a hub for U.S.-based recruiters.

General Motors hired Colón in 1994 as a data acquisition engineer, and since 2001 she has been with the company’s NASCAR cup series.

For years, Colón has been closely associated with recruiting and retaining graduates from her alma mater in Puerto Rico to come work for General Motors. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, this role taken on even more importance.

Young people in the island, said Colón, are “very anxious” to get jobs, summer jobs and internships lined up.

“They are very smart and hard workers. They don’t have a lot of resources compared to other universities in the states, but they take the same classes and they have to find how to make things happen with the little resources that they have,” said Colón. “Those are skills we look at, that passion to make things happen.”

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

Meet Danielle Olson: A ‘Gique’ Advancing the Case for STEAM Education

LinkedIn
Danielle Olson

What is a “Gique”? It’s a cross between “geek” and “chic,” a maker and creative problem-solver whose interdisciplinary interests turn STEM into STEAM. Meet Danielle Olson, researcher and PhD student at MIT and proud founder of Gique, a nonprofit that provides transformational, culturally situated STEAM learning for underserved youth.

Olson says being a Gique is about using your passion to embrace change and create your dream job. Olson offered STEMconnector her insights and experience as an engineer, a dancer, a dreamer, and pioneer in STEAM education, as well as research on how the arts are leveling the educational playing field in STEM.

Interview below courtesy of Stemconnector

STEMconnector: How does using the arts impact the STEM talent gap?

Danielle Olson: Fortunately, a new and exciting field of education is emerging where curricula are designed to expose youth to the applications of science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics (STEAM) in the real world. STEAM, rather than just STEM, education focuses on student cultivation of the critical, creative, and participatory dispositions key to empowered, authentic engagement in both science and art, along with preparing students to think of ways that they can contribute to society as individuals.

The arts have been treated as a “cherry on top” in recent years. But research demonstrates that an arts education offers critical development opportunities for children, which include cognitive and social growth, long-term memory improvement, stress reduction, and promotion of creativity. In fact, research findings show that if arts were included in science classes, STEM would be more appealing to students, and exposure to experts in these fields could affect career decisions. Gique believes that STEAM education affords students opportunities to envision themselves pursuing their “dream careers,” which they may invent for themselves.

There are three categories that aid in representing various perspectives of art integration: (1) learning “through” and “with” the arts, (2) making connections across knowledge domains, and (3) collaborative engagement across disciplines.

Gique piloted a 9-month-long, out-of-school STEAM Program with students at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester, an inner-city in Boston, Massachusetts, in the areas of science, the arts, and entrepreneurship by putting the theoretical framework, which underpins the necessity for STEAM education, into action.

SC: What kinds of lessons do you offer students?

DO: Gique designs and provides free, hands-on educational programs and mentorship to talented youth from diverse circumstances in the Boston area and in California. We create a safe, positive learning community for our students and cultivate their curiosity and self-esteem through two arms of programming:

  • Gique’s Science Can DANCE! Community Programs—provides youth with a way to explore STEAM through creative movement and dance choreography. By taking an integrated approach to breaking down technical concepts, we provide a unique mentorship opportunity for students interested in both arts and science topics.
  • Gique’s Out-of-School Time (OST) STEAM Program—a 9-month-long, weekly after-school program for middle school students to explore their personal interests in STEAM. This program enables students to receive long-term mentorship from innovators from around the world and participate in hands-on workshops and field trips. By the end of the semester, students gain a better understanding of how they can take an idea from concept to reality through innovation with art + design, science, and technology.

In addition to these two programs, Gique has provided a wide variety of educational opportunities to people of all ages in the Boston area for the past four years. We have collaborated with numerous organizations to provide educational programming, including MIT Museum, Harvard Museum of Science & Culture, Artisan’s Asylum, and General Assembly Boston.

SC: How can corporations that support a vibrant STEM workforce get involved in advancing STEAM education?

DO: First, corporations should stand with teachers and parents to fight back against policies that discourage interdisciplinary education. This may include, but is not limited to, policies that result in art, drama, history, and science class time reduction and policies, which discourage teachers from being innovative due to too much focus on standardized testing.

Second, people in power must use their influence to help give underrepresented groups more access to resources that can level the playing field in education. I had access to programs like FIRST Robotics Competition and MIT’s Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science Program, which changed my life, thanks to the generosity of donors investing directly in people of color by sponsoring these programs. However, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in these programs if I had to pay for them. That’s why Gique leverages the support of its sponsors to deliver life-changing experiences to students that help them pursue career dreams that they may have deemed impossible.

SC: How is Gique measuring its impact?

DO: We have a structured process in place to design, administer, and analyze quantitative and qualitative measurements, including pre- and post- assessments, audio/video interviews, and external feedback (from program staff/volunteers and parents/guardians).

Specifically, for Gique’s OST STEAM Program, a schema was developed to identify, both broadly and specifically, what students learned and in what context it applies to their lives. Prior to each term, the program leadership developed several goals for student impact, with measurable indicators to assess each goal. Assessment questions were adapted from the Museum of Science Boston’s Engineering is Elementary program assessment model. At the end of the semester, students completed the same assessment for the program leadership to understand what deltas occurred and what the development areas were for program improvement.

While the quantitative data collected often helped to inform strategic decisions and content choices, the qualitative data showed how the program impacted students, parents, volunteers and teachers. Gique wholeheartedly believes that learning experiences should be fun, so asking these qualitative questions were critical to the development and success of the pilot OST STEAM program.

Gaining parent/guardian feedback served to be an excellent indicator of how excited students were about the program.

Visit Gique’s community of leaders and makers at gique.me

Source: stemconnector.com

Karlie Kloss on Coding, Women in Tech, and Breaking the Glass Ceiling

LinkedIn

Coding is the language of the future. It’s the first step to launching that innovative app or program that will change the world, but as Karlie Kloss discovered, not enough women speak it. In an effort to create a level playing field, she launched Kode With Klossy, an organization that arms women with the tools they need to enter the tech world. What started as a free summer coding camp became a powerful network uniting women in tech. Now it awards career scholarships to young female developers and touts itself as a national community.Kode With Klossy’s success proves what we’ve known all along: When women support each other, incredible things can happen. In a candid conversation with Kode With Klossy camper Torie Pfau, 18, Karlie shares her thoughts on coding, succeeding in a male-dominated field, and why it’s important to get into your panic zone.

TORIE PFAU: Why did you want to learn how to code?

KARLIE KLOSS: I wanted to understand the secret language of code and how things worked. Whether it’s social media, apps, software, or hardware, to understand how technology built it is fascinating. I also wanted to know if this was something that I could learn. I started Kode With Klossy because as my mind opened to understanding how mighty coding is, I wanted to share that with you..

TP: I remember how nervous I was on my first day of Kode With Klossy but also how supportive and communal the environment was. It’s so exciting and empowering that while I entered feeling nervous, I left feeling endlessly inspired. How did you feel at your first coding class, and how important was building a community like that?

KK: The community component of Kode With Klossy is one of the most powerful parts of the whole experience. That aspect was something that I never realized was going to be a part of what we were building: this idea of wanting to create opportunities for other girls to learn how to code and understand the capability of tech and how it can open doors for anyone. It becomes this network, this family, this community of like-minded, passionate, determined young women, and that is something I am so inspired by.

TP: It’s like we build programs, but we also build friendships that hopefully last even longer. There’s real magic in a room where girls are constantly aiding and investing in each other. How important is women backing one another to you, and how do you see it influencing the future for women in this male-dominated field?

KK: It’s such an important and necessary thing. I feel really lucky that I’ve had the guidance of my sisters, my mom, the strong women in my family my whole life. But also throughout my career, I’ve had the support of friends, whether they’re my peers or mentors, women older than me who have been incredible friends and advocates. They’ve really shaped who I’ve become. It’s important to share that kind of friendship and mentorship. It’s like this amazing gift that keeps on giving, because when you are that friend or mentor to somebody else, that is a gift that they then want to share. Do you feel like there was a lot of help in the classroom?

TP: One hundred percent, in the classroom and then outside. We talk a lot about the panic zone and the learning zone in Kode With Klossy, the learning zone being the ring directly outside your comfort zone that’s challenging but still manageable, and the panic zone being miles out, where you’re panicking but pushing yourself beyond your wildest dreams. When do you find yourself in those zones, either professionally or in the classroom, and what have you learned from them?

KK: It’s such an important lesson in life to be aware of your comfort zone, but also to not be complacent or afraid to go into your panic zone. When you go into your panic zone, it actually makes you want to keep learning and be open to new ideas. Sometimes that’s scary at first, but eventually the panic zone is no longer scary, and the things that were challenges become things that you conquer. So what used to be your panic zone is now your comfort zone. It’s this amazing analogy for life that is applicable in so many directions. What’s important, too, about the panic zone is that even when you’re in it, in the classroom or in life, you’re never totally alone in the deep end. You know you have the support around you of a teacher, a TA, or the person next to you, whom you can ask for help or relate to the fact that they’re also struggling with the same thing.

Continue onto Teen Vogue to read the complete article.

2018 Hot Jobs

LinkedIn
stem cell research

Those who concentrate on courses related to math, science, engineering, and technology will probably have the widest array of options upon graduation.

As the nation’s roughly 2 million college freshmen take the first steps on their career paths, the employment experts offered some advice on which areas could offer the most fertile employment landscape over the next decade.

Many freshmen have no idea what career path they want to pursue, relying on a mix of courses in the first year to help point them in the right direction. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is a good idea to at least be armed with information about where job growth is expected to remain strong to make the best decisions about one’s course selections going forward.

Those who concentrate on courses related to math, science, engineering, and technology will probably have the widest array of options upon graduation. However, it is vital not to overlook critical coursework in writing, public speaking, and courses that sharpen your critical thinking skills. While technical skills are in high demand, employers across the country consistently lament the lack of writing and communication skills that are essential in any profession one might pursue.

Indeed, when human resources executives were asked by the Society of Human Resource Management to identify the skills that 2013 graduates were lacking the most, the largest percentage by far pointed to basic writing skills. Nearly half of the HR professionals said last spring’s graduates lacked grammar, spelling, and other writing skills. Math, which ranked second in the list of skill deficiencies, was selected by 18 percent of respondents.

Even if you pursue a profession that is desperate for workers, a lack of fundamental written and verbal communication skills will significantly reduce the chances of being considered, let alone hired.

Below is a list of fields and professions that are expected to experience strong employment gains in the coming years.

Big Data – Health care, corporations, government agencies, etc., are all collecting massive amounts of information. The demand will be for people who can organize, manage, and make sense of all this data.

R&D – Technological developments are accelerating the pace of change and significant breakthroughs in all types of fields, from renewable energy to health care, from transportation to home construction. Those schooled in biology, chemistry, math, engineering, design, computer technology, etc., are going to be rewarded with ample job opportunities in research and development.

Veterinarians – Pets are more popular than ever, and some of them get medical care that’s practically fit for a human. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the need for vets to rise 36 percent by 2020.

Medical technicians – As medical equipment continues to become more sophisticated, they require highly trained individuals to operate, troubleshoot, and repair them.

Athletic trainers/physical therapists – These represent two sides of the same coin. They share many of the same fundamental skills and training. Several trends are driving the growth in demand for these workers—the most obvious one being the aging baby boomer population, which will require increased physical care. We are also seeing growth in competitive sports, fitness, etc., that is creating demand for those trained in repairing participants.

Sales and Marketing – All of these other growth areas need people to increase demand for their products and services. That’s where sales and marketing pros will benefit. You could have the greatest invention ever, but if you don’t have a team to get it into the marketplace and create demand, that invention will never see the light of day.

Human Factors Engineers and Ergonomists – While these types of jobs need a catchier name, the demand will continue to grow. Where we work, how we work, and when we work have all changed dramatically over the past decade. These will continue to evolve going forward. So, we will need people who specialize in maximizing efficiency, health, cost, quality, etc. We have companies now where more than half of the employees work from home. How do you make sure everyone is on the same page and moving in the right direction? Yahoo couldn’t do it, so the company ended its work-at-home option. Companies need strategies for managing such a workforce, and these are the people who will do it. These workers will have varied education backgrounds, including psychology, engineering and technology, design, sociology, administration and management.

Also: Teachers and education services (as more private learning systems pop up); registered nurses, particularly in specialty areas, such as oncology, pediatrics, and intensive care; finance and accounting; trade crafts, such as electricians and plumbers; information technology and network administration.

Source: challengergray.com

81-year-old woman makes iPhone app after only starting to use computers at 60

LinkedIn

If you laugh at how older people use computers, this 81-year-old from Japan is going to set you straight.

Masako Wakamiya is making the news for an app she created to show people the correct way to place their traditional doll displays ahead of Hinamatsuri, or Girl’s Day, in Japan.

Wakamiya is a former banker who clocked 43 years of service at a major Japanese bank, and only learned how to use computers when she was 60.

In the app, named Hinadan — a combination of the words hina, a type of doll, and dan, meaning “tier” — the player must position 12 dolls in their correct positions on a display with four tiers.

After the player finishes the game, a congratulatory message pops up.

In an email to Mashable, Wakamiya said that she was taught by a “young person” living in Sendai, northeast of Tokyo, who taught her Apple’s Swift programming language via Skype and Facebook Messenger. The images in the app are made by her friend with the shapes on Microsoft Office, she added.

“The reason for making this applications is that many smartphone apps are for young people and [there] are almost no apps that the elderly can enjoy,” she said. “I [would] encourage [old people] to start having fun experiences using computers.”

Wakamiya’s blog features tutorials on how to make art with Excel, and publishes vlogs from her travels to the Mediterranean and New Zealand.

The vibrant lady also runs a club for other retirees on active ageing called the Mellow Club.

Here she is featured at a TEDx talk in Tokyo, where she talked about active ageing in the digital world.

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

Cracking the code: how to get more women into computing

LinkedIn

Computer programming jobs are growing 12% faster than the market average – here’s how business and society can encourage more women into the profession.

The schooling may be hard, but the opportunities are broad. As a coder, you could just as easily find yourself working for a hot tech start up as you could a high street fashion brand. And since a report from Burning Glass revealed that programming jobs grew 12% faster than the market average, these opportunities will keep on coming.

This is great for skilled job seekers, but tricky for employers. As the present tries to catch up with the future, there’s more demand for people who can code than there is supply. Fortunately, pathways exist for women to break in, through education programmes, university recruitment and businesses who foster and support women into the field.

Start as you mean to go on

While computing-related fields are a major growth area, non-profit organisation Girls Who Code notes that by 2020 women are on track to fill a mere 3% of these jobs in the US. In the UK women account for just 21% of the country’s science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce, with only 3% saying tech is their first choice career, according to PwC. This is stark news for today’s female coders, but it’s also an opportunity for the future. One of the clear ways to close the skills gap is to pave the way for women, starting when they are still girls.

Parents across the UK who are signing their children up to after-school programmes will know that coding clubs are a way to nurture young, prospective tech leaders. Within a single term, today’s children will be able to code instructions and create their own computer games.

nd it’s more than after-school; coding has been embedded into the UK school curriculum since 2013. As reported by the Guardian’s Stuart Dredge, Michael Gove, the education secretary at the time, said that the revised curriculum teaches children “not just how to work a computer, but how a computer works and how to make it work for you”.

Echoing a similar ethos, Melissa Sariffodeen, co-founder and CEO of Ladies Learning Code, is committed to sharing the language of coding to women and girls to “help us understand, harness and build – not just consume technology”.

“Learning to code is like learning any new language. While the barriers to start are really low, to become proficient and a strong developer requires practice,” says Sariffodeen. “Technology is always changing and evolving so there’s always something to learn and keep on top. That is what makes the industry and roles so dynamic for so many people – including women.”

Pique the interest of the best and brightest

As an industry with its own language, coding can be intimidating to outsiders. That’s why university fairs have become an opportunity for tech companies to present not just themselves as great employers, but to attract new talent that would not necessarily identify themselves as techies.

“Attracting a diverse workforce must start in schools and at universities,” says Sheridan Ash, who heads up PwC’s Women in Technology programme. “We want to get the message out early about the broad opportunities of working in technology which go well beyond the stereotypes.”

Continue onto The Guardian to read the complete article.

How The Girl Scouts CEO Went From Rocket Scientist To America’s Biggest Champion Of Girls

LinkedIn

There are moments that Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, just can’t forget.

There was the time a college counselor at her high school in Las Cruces, New Mexico, scoffed at Acevedo’s desire to study engineering. “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she recalls the counselor saying, in a reference to her Mexican ethnicity. 

And there was the time when Acevedo won a competitive four-year scholarship to study engineering, but the male judges were so incredulous of her abilities, they insisted on interviewing her personally. Acevedo remembers one of the judges saying she represented change, and “change for the sake of change is not progress.”

These experiences might have deterred Acevedo from going on to become one of the first female Hispanic rocket scientists in the country, were it not for the Girl Scouts. Years before the college counselor and the scholarship judge undermined and mocked Acevedo’s potential, she’d already discovered her aptitude for science — along with her confidence — thanks to the Girl Scouts.

“I always had the possibility of success,” she says, “but because of the inflection point of Girl Scouts in my life, it made the success a probability.”

Now, Acevedo is one of the most influential public figures urging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. She sat on the Girl Scouts board for years and officially became the organization’s president earlier this year, after holding the position on an interim basis.

Last week, she took center stage at Dreamforce, the annual software conference hosted by Salesforce, and made an incredible pitch: Help Girl Scouts raise $70 million so that it can move more than 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline by 2025.

Though the initiative reflects the long-term shift toward a STEM economy, it also seems like an ambitious gambit to increase Girl Scouts membership, which dipped in recent years and stands at 1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults. Fewer volunteers and families increasingly pressed for time and money have played a part in the membership downturn.

Drawing in new Girl Scouts is even more urgent given the Boy Scouts’ recent decision to bring girls into its ranks. So the hyper focus on STEM isn’t just a natural instinct for Acevedo; it’s also a savvy move to make the Girl Scouts stand out — not only from the Boy Scouts but from the narrative that all Girl Scouts does is sell cookies. That hasn’t been the case since the organization’s founding, but Acevedo knows that cookie sales are how most people encounter Girl Scouts.

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

This Salvadoran-American Woman’s Construction Company Is On Pace to Make Its First Million in Profit

LinkedIn

Jennifer Ramos thought she had her life figured out after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in public policy. But then, her father lost his job, and she was thrust into the role of breadwinner for her family. To ensure her family’s well-being, she launched Jen Contracting Group, LLC – a construction business that placed her in a male-dominated industry. Currently, she’s on pace to bring in $1 million in revenue from her construction firm in 2018.

The 24-year-old boss lady was raised by Salvadoran parents in what was formerly known as Aurora Highlands Community in Arlington, Virginia. Located just outside of Washington, DC, the community was home to a low-income and diverse population. A self-described “girly girl,” Ramos played soccer and basketball and participated in a variety of community-friendly activities, such as the local D.A.R.E. program. As a teenager, she discovered she had a knack for social media and page building and would spend her free time on MySpace and other platforms.

Her parents, who met while working at a restaurant, instilled in her the value of hard work and strong family values. These principles guided her during her college years in Richmond, Virginia.

When her father got laid off from his job as a maintenance technician, Ramos interned at the state regulatory board that oversees the general contracting industry and ensures that contractors abide by state laws.

“I was noticing only a very small percentage of the contracting businesses in the state were women-owned, and yet, I was noticing the state was setting aside a lot of opportunities for businesses that were specifically women-owned,” Ramos tells me.

After her father lost the job he had for two decades, Ramos set out to provide for her family. She spent summer 2014 learning about regulations and opportunities, which is when the idea of founding a construction company “just clicked.”

In August 2015, she launched Jen Contracting, which services the DMV area. Initially, the company had three employees, but it has grown to a team of 20. Her business offers subcontracting, interior construction work, and commercial services. When she started the business, Ramos – who also runs an online home décor business and an inspirational blog – knew nothing about the industry.

“I felt that although I didn’t know anything about the day-to-day operations in construction I could really take on the challenge of learning it,” Ramos recalls.

She applied and got accepted into the Strategic Partnership Program with Clark Construction, which is regarded as an industry leader. The apprenticeship is targeted at minority-owned businesses. Ramos learned how to successfully run her business based on comprehensive theory and hands-on training.

Though there were learning curves, Ramos learned quickly. “I was reading textbooks and cold-calling a lot of construction companies and shadowing anyone who would allow me to,” Ramos says.

Once she felt satisfied with her knowledge of the industry, she earned her license in construction and opened her firm in 2015. The only way to succeed, she concluded, was to fully immerse herself in her endeavor. But despite her preparation and knowledge, she’s been undermined. For example, at one of the first industry meetings she attended, people confused her for an executive assistant. She took the high-road and “gently introduced” herself as the owner of Jen Contracting.

Since then, she has dealt with skepticism and doubt from her counterparts. “The way I’ve overcome that is that I’ve had to prove myself,” Ramos shares. “Persist and really be consistent. I find I’m persistent in showing that I am well informed and have done my homework.”

Another recipe to her success is treating her employees like she treats her customers. She strongly believes in “doing good unto others.” This also means not over-committing to projects and being realistic in goal-setting.

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.

Black, queer and female: VC founder starts her ‘own league’

LinkedIn

Five years ago, Arlan Hamilton set her eyes on becoming a venture capitalist in “the land of opportunity” she called Silicon Valley.

But as a queer black woman, she found the industry wasn’t in her favor.

“I tried earnestly and with wide eyes,” Hamilton told CNN Tech. “But I just got doors slammed in my face. Nobody was interested.”

Hamilton, then 34, also struggled to afford a place to live. Even as she tried to set up meetings with potential partners, she spent nights on the floor of the San Francisco Airport.

Later that year, her first investment came through. She started Backstage Capital, a firm dedicated to funding underrepresented founders who identify as LGBTQ, women and people of color.

Since its launch in 2015, the company said it has invested over $2 million in more than 50 startups. This includes ShearShare, a platform that connects stylists to salons, and Astral AR, an augmented reality piloting system for dronesIts goal is to reach 100 founders by 2020.

Starting her own fund meant facing a system that has not been fair to people of color, especially black women. According to a study by researchers from Babson and Wellesley colleges, female CEOs receive 3% of all VC funding. Meanwhile, black women founders made up only 0.2% of all VC deals between 2012 to 2014, according to #ProjectDiane. The study, which published last year, examined more than 60,000 startups in the U.S.

“I realized that [access to] opportunities were only for certain people. If anyone else wanted in, they’d have to create their own access and their own experience,” Hamilton said.

“I said, ‘I could not do this, but then I won’t see any change. If they wont let me in, I’ll start my own league.'”

Backstage Capital has since attracted support from Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Marc Andreessen, an investor in Twitter, Skype and Facebook.

Starting her “own league” wasn’t and still isn’t easy. The few black women founders who receive VC funding get significantly less of the pie. The average amount of money for a failed startup raises $1.3 million, but the average black female founder received $36,000, the #ProjectDiane study showed.

Part of the battle is explaining diversity can be good for business, said Hamilton. For example, companies with female founders saw 63% higher returns than companies with all men did, one study showed.

“It’s not about “helping” founders,” she wrote in a viral Medium post called “Dear White Venture Capitalists: If you’re reading this, it’s (almost!) too late“. “It’s about fueling an untapped ecosystem so that you may be lucky enough to reap the rewards in years to come.”

Continue onto CNN to read the complete article.