PLAYA VISTA (CBSLA.com) — A weekend-long conference was held in Playa Vista to empower females of all ages to pursue careers in tech industries.
According to researchers, tech employers have looked to diversify the sector by hiring women, and no longer solely offer jobs to men.
In a study by Harvard Business Review, a strong female presence in tech industries has rapidly declined, while almost 50 percent of women have sought new employers over hostile environments.
“L.A.’s tech economy is growing at a breakneck pace,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “To keep up the momentum, all Angelenos need to be empowered to fill the demand for these good paying, top-shelf tech jobs.”
To spark interest among women and girls, Lisa Mae Brunson, founder of Wonder Women Hacks, teamed up with the city of Los Angeles to offer a free networking event aimed to strengthen professional development for careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM.
“It’s so important for us women to support each other as we face the challenges of being in a male-dominated industry that provides so little resources to succeed in this field,” Brunson said. “With Wonder Women Tech, the roles are reversed, and it is truly magical to see and explore a new dynamic where we women rule!”
“Events like Wonder Women Tech help female Angelenos acquire the training and connections they need to compete at the highest level,” Garcetti added. “This helps us address gender inequality in one of our largest growing sectors.”
The conference kicked off Friday night at The Hangar, a fitting location as Playa Vista has secured its reign as the Southern California hub of Silicon Valley.
Google along with Barefoot Wine & Champagne hosted the Wonder Women Tech innovator awards reception, which honored female leaders who have had influences on the community.
Throughout the course of the weekend, those in attendance participated in hands-on events, including a 36-hour hackathon, Time Warner media challenge and Microsoft gaming workshops, to create projects that raised awareness and solved challenges facing women and girls.
“I want women to be inspired by other women and receive the information, tools and resources that will ignite their passion to become makers in society,” Brunson explained.
On Saturday, participants gathered inside The Hangar to discuss project guidelines and form teams made up of graphic designers, web/application developers, filmmakers, technologists, and content creators.
They worked throughout the day and night to create socially minded apps, public service announcements and short films aimed to benefit women in Los Angeles and beyond.
In addition to workshops, a powerhouse of professionals was invited to speak to the crowd through several panel discussions focused around women making strides in technology.
Emily Cohen, CMO of Stylinity, among a panel of six others, discussed how technology has allowed for brands and retail to grow.
“Technology is driving incredible changes in the dynamics between brands, retailers and consumers,” Cohen said. “Our platform, available on app and web, is at the forefront of this change.”
She shared how Stylinity, based in New York, is the first app that “makes selfies shoppable.” It allows for women to connect through technology by posting photos of stylish outfits, tagging product information, sharing through social media and then getting rewarded for purchases made by followers.
“Stylinity is all about organic connections,” Cohen added. “I believe the biggest opportunity for us is to have more people downloading the app, engaging with the platform, and shopping the site.”
More than 50 additional entrepreneurs and innovators were showcased throughout the weekend, including former Adobe Vice President Karen Catlin and Head of Solve for Google X Georgia Dienst, to name a few.
For the younger crowd, made up of about 80 boys and girls, a junior innovators camp offered special coding classes and taught STEAM curriculum.
— Ron Galperin (@RonGalperin) March 2, 2015
The conference wrapped up Sunday night after teams presented their apps to six industry professionals who acted as judges.
Event coordinators said Time Warner Cable agreed to air the winning content, which would also be made available through OnDemand and their YouTube channel.
About 800 residents attended the conference, Brunson said.
Future projects, Brunson added, are in the works to offer smaller events and workshops, which will lead up to the next Wonder Women Tech conference.
The event was hosted by the city of Los Angeles, Garcetti, California Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, Controller Ron Galperin, Councilman Mike Bonin, Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women and Wonder Women Hacks.