Despite Calgary’s strong pool of enterprising, innovative female workers, women are still often underrepresented in the city’s technological fields. The Women’s Edition of the successful Startup Weekend seeks to break down many stigmas and barriers standing between women and their dreams. Much like other iterations of Startup Weekend events, November’s occasion will feature a number of guest speakers and will ultimately culminate in groups of strong-willed individuals designing startup businesses with the support of successful entrepreneurs. By taking a female-centric approach, the event’s organizers and speakers hope to demonstrate just how extensive technological fields actually are. Founding a successful tech startup involves more than just computer expertise; it also demands a wide social network and a variety of interpersonal skills. More importantly, entrepreneurship benefits from having strong role models, something the organizers of the Women’s Edition hope they can provide to attendees.
When Kylie Toh, founder of Calgary-based organization Chic Geek, attended the last Startup Weekend in July, she was disappointed at the lack of female presence at the event. Toh has made it her goal to educate and empower women in Calgary’s tech and startup communities, so she saw this special Startup Weekend as “a perfect fit” for her skill set. Toh founded Chic Geek in January 2013 believing that the lack of women in computer science and other STEM fields was due more to perceived barriers than an actual lack of interest: “I wasn’t meeting a lot of women [at these events], but I figured that if I was into it, then other women must be as well.” Toh has brought many of the women that helped and inspired her when she was getting started with Chic Geek, building a large roster of guest speakers with diverse backgrounds.
Startup Weekend has always focused as much on contact building and problem solving as it has on actually designing a business model. This will be the first event in Canada designed specifically to embolden female businesspeople and has received tremendous support from the business community. Toh is especially excited for the opportunity to showcase and profile some of the world’s best female tech magnates. According to Toh, “Entrepreneurship comes in many different forms. We’re pulling in so many great role models, this is about so much more than just building a startup over the weekend.”
The Calgary Startup Weekend: Women’s Edition will be happening at Innovate Calgary (Alastair Ross Technology Centre, 3553 – 31 St. NW) on the weekend of November 8. Men are welcome to attend but a woman must accompany them. For a list of events and speakers, and to register for the event, see calgary.startupweekend.org.
By John Julius