This month we decided to turn the tech focus on ourselves to share where CWIT has been and discuss its future. The panel was, naturally, the current seven-member Board.
What is the origin of CWIT?
CWIT emerged out of a feeling among several local women that the community was in need of a place/space in which women in tech careers could come together to share experiences and network. While the tech community at large is aware of the gender disparity in tech fields, and is in some way seeking to remedy it, the fact remained that in 2014 a “Women in Tech” Happy Hour at TomTom could still be attended by a mostly male audience. It was out of this experience that Kim Wilkens and Eileen Krepkovich, among others, formulated the idea of forming an all-female group to create a women-only networking group.
CWIT emerged out of a feeling among several local women that the community was in need of a place/space in which women in tech careers could come together to share experiences and network. While the tech community at large is aware of the gender disparity in tech fields, the fact remained that in 2014 a “Women in Tech” Happy Hour that was organized by some of those women including Kim Wilkens and Eileen Krepkovich during the Tom Tom Founders Fest, had more men than women in attendance. This event did help connect more women in tech together who were eager to find ways to address the gender gap in tech and helped launch the monthly Charlottesville Women in Tech meetups that began in June of 2014 and have been running ever since!
How did CWIT become an official organization with non-profit status?
The formation of a non-profit corporation varies by state. In Virginia, all you need to file is a unique name (i.e., one that has not been registered), the names and addresses of an initial Board, and a check for the filing fee. Of course, for your organization to function, you need to draft Bylaws, a process that can be intimidating because they can vary so much between different groups.
Jessica: “The key is writing bylaws is to find one or more samples on which you can base your draft. I got a hold of the bylaws of the amateur radio club whose Board my father has been on for decades. But ultimately, bylaws are a living document that the Board expands and alters as it discovers the needs of the organization over time.”
Once you have a corporation and Board, you can file for non-profit status with the IRS. For organizations with small budgets, the IRS has an “EZ” form and reduces the fee to $400. While turn-around times vary, our application was approved within months. Once approved, non-profit status is retroactive to the date of your application.
While the steps are straight-forward, it takes a sustained effort by a dedicated group of people to see this work through. It is one thing to perceive a need for an organization, but another to concretize that desire into a mission statement and a set of measurable goals.
Kim: “Ever since I started doing Tech-Girls in 2012, I had been looking at how to formalize the organization. I convened a couple of advisory boards who were very helpful in getting next steps identified as well as connecting me with volunteers and partner organizations, but I didn’t feel I had gotten to the right mix or mission to take the step toward 501c3 status. Being part of the process of CWIT’s formation, I knew this was the right fit for Tech-Girls and I am very excited that we can address the gender gap in tech across the technology pipeline helping and supporting women and girls of all ages.”
How is the Board organized?
The Board has four officers (President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary) and three Chairs (Outreach, Sponsorship, Communication). We were very lucky to have gathered a group of people whose interests and talents fit naturally with various aspects of the job of founding and running an organization. The Board holds monthly meetings.
Jessica: “Ultimately, what the Board does is serve as the conduit between the community and the membership. We have benefited from the generosity of Charlottesville’s tech sector: over 50 different people have participated in our meetings as presenters or panelists. Also, the financial support we have received from local companies has allowed us to present all of our programming at no cost to attendees.”
CWIT says “Thank You”
Thank you to all of our speakers/presenters, sponsors, and many more individuals who have helped make CWIT a success!
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Where is CWIT headed?
The future looks bright indeed—in the coming year, we intend to expand our offerings at all levels of our mission (i.e., children through young women through professionals). We have been applying for grants to fund such efforts.
It is also our intention to transform CWIT from an organization guided solely by a self-elected Board to one driven by an engaged membership. Obviously, this transition will take time, but over the long term, the most sustainable organizations are those that are continually renewed by the engagement of an active and growing membership.
What has it been like to run an organization with other women?
All of us on the Board feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to participate in this process.
Saman: “I have had such a wonderful experience working with everyone on the board. It’s so motivating to be around other women who are working to make a difference it the tech community.”
Thank you to all of our the members who joined us for this important meeting!