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St. Louis ranks as one of the worst cities for women in tech, but two organizations are trying to fix that

The Rung for Women headquarters on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in St. Louis’ Fox Park neighborhood. Rung for Women offers “the resources, space and community for women who are ready to work toward the career and the life they deserve,” according to their website.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Rung for Women headquarters in St. Louis’ Fox Park neighborhood. Rung for Women offers “the resources, space and community for women who are ready to work toward the career and the life they deserve,” according to its website.

Two local organizations are partnering to try to even the playing field for women in the technology sector after a national survey found St. Louis is one of the worst cities for gender equality in that field.

A SmartAsset survey last month found women working in technology in St. Louis are paid less than men and are more underrepresented compared to other cities around the country. The financial website ranked St. Louis 54th out of 59 cities.

TechSTL, a council for technology companies, and Rung for Women, a nonprofit career accelerator, are launching an effort to address this problem. They’re starting with a survey for working women in the St. Louis region to learn how the city can do a better job supporting women in tech and in the workforce more broadly.

There are already steps companies could be taking to address pay disparity, including publicly posting salary ranges on job openings, said Rung for Women President Leslie Gill.

“Many of the folks sitting in those seats around recruitment and decision-making obviously don't look like me,” Gill said. “We just really want to work with employers to gather the data so that they can make informed decisions around how to do better.”

This issue doesn’t just affect women seeking opportunities. Tech in St. Louis ranges from agricultural tools to artificial intelligence. But the lack of diversity in the workforce is holding St. Louis’s tech community back, said Emily Hemingway, executive director of TechSTL.

“Innovation is not something that can just be solved by one group of people, especially if you want to be competitive,” Hemingway said. “This is a fast-moving industry, which means we need all the best ideas at the table and all the perspectives that we can find.”

That includes focusing on education and developing the workforce pipeline, to make sure women are being encouraged to get into STEM jobs. There is an opportunity to greatly increase these efforts in the region, said Bronwyn Morgan, CEO of Xeo Air, a company that uses drones to collect geospatial and other data.

“Are we actually preparing women for these roles in our companies, actively recruiting and hiring for women in these roles?” she said leaders need to be asking themselves. “As tech is growing here in the city and in the region, it needs to have a bigger focus and emphasis on women.”

Morgan said the tech industry has problems with gender diversity across the country.

“I think that women are not necessarily the first choice when it comes to opportunities for tech roles,” she said. “If we continue down that path and we miss out on 50%-plus of the workforce, I don't know how companies will ever be able to sustain themselves and really be able to reach their markets at large.”

As the organizations collect data, they say they plan to use it to make recommendations to companies.

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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