Well, readers, we made it to Friday! What an uplifting thought!
This newsletter was originally set to debut in March. Just a few days before our anticipated launch, I wrote something in honor of Women’s History Month. Then, the coronavirus struck, the world changed, and we decided to hold off a bit.
It’s no longer March, and no longer Women’s History Month, but you know what? Good stories are good stories and they deserve to be told. So here you go. I bring to you the special edition of Centered.tech dedicated specifically to women in tech that almost never saw the light of day:
It’s a Girl Thing
The pay gap and lack of women working at and leading tech businesses is well known, so I’m not going to focus on that. Instead, I’ll highlight Midwest innovations and projects that help to advance women’s and girls’ places in society, or that are expanding opportunities for them in the tech industry.
Let’s start by swinging the attention up to St. Louis Park, Minnesota, for a peek at a tech tool that can let people virtually experience life as a woman. Virtual reality lab REM5 is using their technology to help people better understand gender and racial bias in daily situations, the Star Tribune reports. REM5 develops VR experiences that serve as a nontraditional tool for businesses’ diversity and inclusion training sessions.
Users put on a VR headset and are immersed in a virtual situation that depicts an instance of gender or racial bias. VR could simulate, for example, the experience of being the lone woman in a meeting full of men.
Plenty of research points to humans learning better and retaining knowledge longer from active, hands-on experiences compared with passive experiences. Virtual reality simulates an active experience and therefore could have a greater lasting impact than passive training methods such as watching a video.
Plus, having discussions about difficult topics during a group training can be intimidating or cause participants to feel shame, but the individual VR headsets provide a type of emotional protection.
REM5 aims to use VR for the greater good, instead of just providing a fun video game experience. It plans to target teachers, students, and community groups among its core audience — and with the addition of the new training module prototype, businesses as well.
Here are some other notable girl power tech stories from other parts of the Midwest:
- The women CEOs for five Chicago companies – tastytrade, Jellyvision, Braviant Holdings, Eved, and CancerIQ – discuss what inspired them to lead and how other women can apply lessons learned in their careers. (Built in Chicago)
- Peoria-based Bump Boxes, a monthly pregnancy subscription box startup, committed to investing up to $1 million in early-stage, mom-focused companies this year. (Tech Startups)
- A report from the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation lays a roadmap to get girls interested in tech and women into tech careers throughout the state. (Crain’s Detroit Business)
- A Milwaukee startup, Lift Up MKE, is helping women learn the tech skills they need to reenter the workforce after an absence. (BizTimes)
Thanks for reading, and here’s a big shout out to all the women and their allies working to improve the tech industry!
Other stories we’re watching:
- Illinois leaders are looking into technology that will help with tracing the contacts that thousands of COVID-19 patients made. Once a COVID patient is identified, their known contacts would be notified. (Chicago Sun-Times)
- School districts in Toledo, Ohio, and South Bend, Indiana, are among those using school buses to ensure students have Wi-Fi at home for distance learning. The school buses are equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots and strategically placed in neighborhoods with need for the technology. (Ars Technica)
- Wichita tech company Viaanix is developing an app to notify users if they violate the 6-feet social distancing rules. (KWCH 12)
- Carmel, Indiana, will become the first city in the country to retrofit some of its municipal fleet vehicles to run on hydrogen power. Local company AIGalCo developed the technology, which attaches to the back of a vehicle and connects with the engine. (Indianapolis Star)