Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates, has announced a five-year, $50 million initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women in the tech sector.
Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities, as the initiative is called, will work to create inclusive tech hubs in three U.S. cities, starting with Chicago. In each city, the initiative will develop replicable, collaborative women-focused investment models and align resources in support of those models across academia and the nonprofit, government, venture capital, and business sectors, with the goal of maximizing local impact, engaging other funders, and accelerating the pace of change nationally.
According to Pivotal Ventures, women — especially African-American and Latinx women — are chronically underrepresented in the U.S. tech sector, particularly in fast-growing fields such as artificial intelligence. Indeed, in 2019 only 2.8 percent of venture capital dollars in the U.S. went to companies with all-women founding teams. To establish a more inclusive tech ecosystem in Chicago, the initiative will take a three-pronged approach: building pathways into tech, with Break Through Tech, an initiative of Cornell Tech, partnering with the University of Illinois at Chicago to replicate its Women in Technology & Entrepreneurship New York (WiTNY) model and increase the number of female computing graduates; activating and aligning the tech and entrepreneurial tech ecosystem, with global innovation agency SecondMuse working to engage startups, venture firms, tech companies, and nonprofits in developing shared goals around hiring and retention, sharing best practices with respect to workplace culture, boosting female representation in AI jobs, and aligning funding sources for women entrepreneurs; and ensuring equal representation for all women, with AI4ALL and digitalundivided working to create entry points into tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship, with a focus on women of color.
"As the tech industry continues to expand beyond Silicon Valley to other areas across the country, we have the opportunity to reimagine what the sector could look like," Gates wrote in a blog post. "If these emerging tech hubs are supported to prioritize women's representation and inclusion as they grow, they will be better positioned to tap into the full range of local talent while also helping create a blueprint for closing the industry's gender gap nationwide."
(Photo credit: Cornell Tech)