Chicago Events Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018

Ladies! This week is a good week to network and meet other amazing, entrepreneurial women in Chicago for International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8, 2018. I went to a beauty event with the Tulle Project today and as we were introducing ourselves, one women shared the four, yes four jobs she has. Another woman, in awe, noted how ambitious Chicago women are. I wholeheartedly believe that. I encourage you to meet these Chicago girl bosses this week at one of the many Chicago events for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018. Look for events and opportunities to connect all month long for women’s history month.

Quick note: International Women’s Day theme is #PressForProgess.

Global Strategist Association Event:

The Global Strategists Association is hosting a luncheon in honor of International Women’s Day to discuss opportunities for women of color.

Details:

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Location: The DuSable Museum of African American History

RSVP

1871 Event:

1871, a Chicago incubator for startups is hosting a day of workshops and speaking events for women. 1871 is such a great resource that female founded companies like this 3D printing jewelry company, this beauty services company that is now offering company perks to GrubHub, and this designer clothes and accessories startup all used to help grow their business.

This event series has several sessions that you can drop into throughout the day. I’m personally looking forward to the Building Your Company’s Brand Panel Discussion.

Details:

Time: 8 am – 9 pm

Location: 1871, Merchandise Mart

RSVP

SheSays Chicago Event:

SheSays Chicago, a Chicago chapter of a national organization of women in creative fields, is putting together an event with Leo Burnett on Thursday, March 8, 2018 right after work.

I’ve been attending SheSays Chicago events for years and even spoke at one of the panels about networking. You can read about some of my past coverage of their events like Turning Passion into Profit and Networking Advice from Edelman, PR Agency.

There will be a panel discussion.

MODERATOR:

Jessica Papilla, Data Analyst at Leo Burnett

PANEL:

Monika Black, PhD, CPC | Chief Strategy Officer at DyMynd

Kayte Malik, CEO and Co-founder of Dresscode

Beth Sehgal, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion for A.T. Kearney

Priya Shah, Founder and Executive Director of The Simple Good

Details:

Time: 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Location: Leo Burnett Office

RSVP

Ladies Get Paid Event:

Ladies Get Paid, an organization that helps women achieve their professional goals and get equal pay, is hosting an International Women’s Day event at Ace Bounce. This looks like a causal event to get drinks and meet other professional women.

Details:

Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Location: Ace Bounce

RSVP

WeWork Kenzie Event:

WeWork Kinzie is hosting an International Women’s Day workshop for freelancers and female entrepreneurs. Over 150 people have signed up for this event. In this workshop, speakers will present four topics: (a) finding the courage to lead, (b) the foundations of entrepreneurship, (c) a woman’s story of finding her purpose, and (d) establishing a position of influence in a competitive industry.

Details:

Time: 6:00-9:00 pm

Location: WeWork Kinzie

RSVP ($20)

She Means Business Event:

She Means Business will be presenting a panel discussion and gender equality and female leadership in the workplace.

The Panelists:

• Naima Prince, Expert Budget and Financial Analyst at GSA

• Lindsey Branding, Controller at Hireology

• Colleen Wilson, Founder & CEO of Collaborate Chicago

• Holly Glowaty, Co-Founder at K+H Connection and Founding Co-Producer at Flourish

• Katharine Hebenstreit, President & COO at Link Capital

Details:

Time: 5:30-8:00 pm

Location: Topstep Trader

RSVP

Edgewater Chamber of Commerce:

If drinks aren’t enough for you, the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce is hosting a dinner crawl. Get all the savory details below!

Time: 5 pm

Location: Edgewater, over 10 restaurants

RSVP

Conclusion:

I hope to see you at one of the Chicago events for International Women’s Day or you can join the conversation online using the hashtag: #PressForProgress.

How do you build a professional community in Chicago? Tag me on Twitter or Instagram @windycitycosmo.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Travelzoo Becomes the Only U.S. Listed Company with an 80% Female Board

Global travel deals publisher Travelzoo announced it’s the only U.S. listed company to have 80% of its board of director seats held by women—the highest female-to-male ratio of any NASDAQ or NYSE-listed company. The landmark event will be commemorated today with a Travelzoo sponsored discussion featuring an all-female panel moderated by Tina Brown, C.B.E, Founder and CEO of Women in the World Media and creator of the Women in the World Summit. Today’s event spotlights the ongoing issue of lack of gender diversity within listed companies.

Underscoring the cultural diversity of the company’s board, female Travelzoo board members hail from New York, San Francisco, London and Shanghai. The two new Travelzoo board members recently elected, which brought the ratio to 80%, include Rachel Barnett, based in New York, and Carrie Liu, based in Shanghai. Other existing female board members include Mary Reilly, based in London, who has been a member of Travelzoo’s board of directors since September 2013. Beatrice Tarka is based in San Francisco and has been a member of Travelzoo’s board of directors since August 2015.

The women will be featured panelists in a discussion about strategies for improving female-to-male ratios in executive leadership, and how to address the challenges that hinder progress. Panel moderator Tina Brown commented: “In order for women to take their rightful place in the C-suite, they need a seat at the table—the boardroom table to be exact. I salute Travelzoo for not only recognizing the invaluable contributions women can make by appointing them to its board, but doing so with such whole-hearted, ground-breaking enthusiasm.”

Lack of Board Gender Diversity Remains a Persistent and Global Problem

Today’s event serves as a reminder that despite advances, female representation on listed company boards remains low around the world. Consider that:

  • According to board intelligence experts Equilar, who publish the Gender Diversity Index, 23% of Russell 3000 companies, representing the 3,000 largest listed U.S. companies, have zero female representation on their boards.
  • Aside from Travelzoo, just four other NASDAQ or NYSE-listed companies have boards composed of over 60% women.
  • In the UK, only 27% of FTSE 100 directors are women.
  • Several European countries, including Belgium, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, are trying to drive change through mandatory female quotas for boards. For example, Norway instituted a 40% quota for female representation on boards for the largest publicly traded companies.
  • In Hong Kong, several recent reports state that 11% of Hang Seng-listed companies have women on their boards.

“A board of directors should consist of the most qualified individuals being elected. Furthermore, having different perspectives is very important,” said Ralph Bartel, founder and chairman of Travelzoo. “I find it disconcerting that only 5 of more than 4,000 U.S. listed companies have 60% or more female board members. I look forward to seeing many more listed companies around the world re-define their boards.”

Esteemed fashion designer and businesswoman Diane von Furstenberg commented: “Travelzoo is making a commitment to women and is leading the way with its 80% women on its board! And its landmark achievement is a starting point for many other businesses to follow.”

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The Ultimate Female Entrepreneur’s Guide To Techweek Chicago 2017

The one thing that startups can relate to is constant change. And that seems to be the case with one of the iconic and debatable tech conferences nationally, and especially in Chicago – Techweek.

The change I am alluding to is both in terms of mission as much as it is in structure.

Female entrepreneurs and women in tech usually ask if Techweek Chicago is worth it?

And, while there’s a blatant answer – go to the women in tech breakfast, which is part of Techweek, where 20 different leading technical women and entrepreneurs will speak, there are other considerations.

So, Windy City Cosmo reached out to the CEO of Techweek, Amanda Signorelli to get your questions answered about what to wear to Techweek, who should attend, and most importantly, what you’re signing up for. Because, as a past attendee (2013 and 2014), Techweek Chicago is not going to be like the Greek parties you’ve read about in 2013, nor have tricks up its sleeves like Microsoft’s act as sponsor in 2014, nor have to squash the sexist commentary and then transition like 2015.

No, this year, Techweek Chicago is going to be different. More serious. More structured. More impactful, maybe. And if you’re intrigued, there’s a discount code at the bottom of the article.

“Techweek was founded in 2011 as a small conference to gather the tech community that began bubbling after the Groupon IPO,” Signorelli shared, “Since 2011, we’ve seen the ecosystem grow and evolve from a nascent market to now a top-tier global tech ecosystem, driven by the growth in B2B software companies.”

Techweek: More Compact

Techweek Chicago is turning into more of a tech day, with just one full day of sessions and then a handful of sponsored events June 19-23, 2017.

At first glance, the conference seems light. I pulled out my calendar to block off sessions, and the substance was less frill and more business – which seems to be the new direction of Techweek. Sessions will touch on high-growth startup strategies and diversity in tech, as well as acquisitions and scaling businesses.

“Techweek this year is all about the content,” Signorelli shared, “Every evening event we have will be anchored with recognizing leaders in the community or sharing knowledge around a specific topic.”

Techweek Speakers:

I moved along to the speakers and familiar players from after work networking events are coming thru to impart their tips and techniques including Mike Rothman, CEO of SMS Assist; Pat Vihtelic, CEO of Home Chef; Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellyvision; and Justyn Howard CEO of Sprout Social.

Usually, Techweek Chicago emphasizes their interactive sessions, networking opportunities, and their job fair, and launch competition to showcase the Chicago tech scene. And, I’m here to say, that all of those things are still part of the Techweek Chicago 2017 agenda.

Techweek Chicago Conference Highlights:

  • Techweek Chicago Kick-Off Party: Monday, June 19 at 5 p.m. at the MillerCoors rooftop
  • The Capital One Gathering, which will take over three floors and feature 3D printerspace, coding, robot wars and more: Tuesday, June 20 at 5 pm at Capital One
  • Techweek Launch Showcase, a summit featuring top local startups from the Techweek100: Wednesday, June 21 at 5:30 pm at the Bottom Lounge in the West Loop
  • Nerdery Virtual Reality Event, with leading content and interactive activities: Wednesday, June 21 at 7 pm at the Nerdery
  • Women in Tech Breakfast, where female business leaders share their thoughts on tech entrepreneurship, in partnership with Syndio: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 am at VenueSix10
  • Growth Summit, panel of CEO’s speaking about company growth topics: Thursday, June 22 at 8:30 am at VenueSix10
  • GoGo Air Gathering, featuring the passenger experience in the future: 5:30 pm on Thursday, June 22 at GoGo Air
  • Techweek Gives Event, announcing the most generous company: Wednesday, June 21 (time and location TBD)

Techweek Charity: Give Back to S.T.E.A.M.

Another part of Techweek Chicago that is changing is that it is focusing on giving back. Techweek launched TechweekGives this year as an opportunity for Chicago’s technology community to come together and give money, time and goods to S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and other nonprofits. The goal is to raise $1 million over a 90-day period, and two months in, they are over halfway to their goal with nearly $600K in money, goods and volunteer hours.

Interview with the CEO of Techweek:

Amanda CEO (1)

What innovations are you most excited about in the next five years? 

Signorelli: It’s hard to pick just one source of innovation, but I am personally excited to see the future of driverless cars because I hope that in the next five years, we can make the roads substantially safer for everyone. Yes, autonomous vehicles are cool, but they’ll also save lives. 

Do you find that in the launch competition that there is a focus on one type of technology or business model that resonates with the tech community? Feel free to give an example. 

Signorelli: Chicago is a B2B (Business to Business) tech city. While the B2C companies are certainly the easiest to digest in terms of business model, B2B startups resonate well with the tech community. From our finalists last year, we had strong representation from both models, MailControl, AcesHealth, and Shurpa were B2B and Schlep and Parqex were B2C (Business to Consumer). 

As a woman leading a tech conference, did you have any reservations? Why did you choose this role? 

Signorelli: No, I was fortunate to succeed a great female entrepreneur, Katy Lynch, before I took over and I never felt any reservations joining nor taking on the role. I choose this position because I truly love to learn about tech and early stage companies. I enjoy doing due diligence on interesting companies and seeing how tech trends evolve across markets. 

Are there any female entrepreneurs that you are partnering with this year? 

Signorelli: This year we have our Women in Tech breakfast kicking off the Growth Summit, which will feature 20 different leading technical women and entrepreneurs. Our Growth Summit lineup also includes some fantastic female entrepreneurs such as Nicole Staple, CEO of Brideside and Kristi Zhulke, CEO of Knowledgehound. 

What advice would you give a woman who is interested in tech and wondering how to gain skills in the community?

Signorelli: Build relationships and take notes. There are numerous organizations that offer great classes to teach hard skills and can help build a toolkit needed for a startup. However, what’s equally important is being engaged in the community and meeting the entrepreneurs who have success and listening to them. Take notes, ask questions, and be curious. 

Often times in tech, there are women-only conferences, what value do co-ed conferences bring to women? 

Signorelli: I’ve had this conversation with many fellow female entrepreneurs and there’s no right answer. However, I personally believe it is vital to have co-ed conferences that include dialogue from both genders. I want to celebrate great entrepreneurs for being just that—entrepreneurs—not just because they are female. That doesn’t change what they’ve accomplished. If we truly want to see a state of equity, all parties must share an equal voice.

 Do you think Techweek has helped change the dynamic of a more inclusive (gender, race, education) tech community? How so? 

Signorelli: Techweek is a reflection of the local community, and consequently, is a catalyst for conversation, which provides a chance to push for a more inclusive environment. Last year, in partnership with Capital One, we expanded the focus of diversity to include programs that fostered the development of technical skills for those with disabilities.

Techweek keeps growing, is there a reason someone should choose to attend Techweek Chi in their hometown vs. traveling to Techweek New York or LA?

Signorelli: Every Techweek event, just like our markets, is different. In LA, you’ll hear about fashion, ecommerce and e-gaming startups, while NYC is heavily weighted towards FinTech and media. And separately, Chicago has an emphasis around B2B SAS companies and Big Data. Someone should choose to attend a Techweek depending on their industry interest.

People on social media often ask, is it worth it to attend, so who will be most impacted by the content and people at Techweek? 

Signorelli: Techweek is a thoughtful assembly of events, each with its own purpose and ideal audience. Tech enthusiasts, students and engineers should attend our community festival. Early stage entrepreneurs and angel investors should attend the startup showcase and senior level executives, founders, and Venture Capitalists should attend Growth Summit. We work hard to ensure that there is something for everyone at Techweek.

What should you wear to Techweek – for men and women? 

Signorelli: We have early stage startup employees, bankers, Fortune 500 executives, and students. Everyone should feel comfortable wearing their work attire—with a touch of Techweek red!

Techweek Chicago Discount Tickets:

Tickets are on sale at Techweek.com/Chicago. There are three tickets this year, including a free pass. Plus, we are offering a 15% off Techweek Chicago discount code using: WINDYCITY.

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Windy City Cosmo Wins Award for Female Entrepreneurship Coverage

I’m very excited to announce that after two years of interviewing Chicago female entrepreneurs, Windy City Cosmo joined the stage with Chicago publications and Chicago entrepreneurs that were recognized by liftUplift for being champions of women’s power.

LiftUplift launched in September 2015, and everyday acts as a catalyst that empowers female makers and entrepreneurs. Corielle Heath Laaspere, Founder of liftUplift, orchestrated this special evening on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at Catalyst Ranch in the West Loop.

Chicago female entrepreneurs, from female publications to graphic designers and fashion designers as well as tech startups and venture capitalists, were all recognized with a liftUplift Ally Award.

All of the women awarded were interviewed prior to the black tie event.

During my interview,  I was asked, what inspired you to become a champion of Women Power?

“Women, like men, are amazing and driven individuals. I think it’s important that we have a community where we can specifically address our needs as female bosses and also simply help each other succeed, much like what liftUPlife does,” I answered. You can read the full interview here.

Chicago Female Entrepreneurs Recognized for Championing Women Power:

One of the awardees was Katy Lynch, Co-Founder of Codeverse. She was also recently nominated for two awards at the Moxies –  ‘Best New Startup’ and ‘Best Social Impact Startup’ (which you can vote for here).

Another awardee was Silvana Favaretto of The Tulle Project. Favaretto is a graphic designer (and she graciously designed the program for the award ceremony) who was looking for a project to inspire her creativity and take her art to the next level. She decided to wear tulle skirts for 100 days (see her whole story here) and that’s how the business started.

She wore a black tulle skirt that she made herself. Earlier that day, she was at Chicago’s annual show “One of a Kind.” P.S. you should check out her “Mommy and Me” collection for Mother’s Day.

Photo: The Tulle Project

Make sure to grab a copy of Chicago Woman magazine to read all of the profiles of the women who received Ally Awards.

liftUplift’s Story:

A smiling blonde, Laaspere, draws you in with her contagious charismatic personality, her spark for supporting women and her business acumen to turn her passion into a full-fledged tech startup. I first interviewed her in 2016 and you can read her whole story here. 

“I was born to do this,” are the first words Laaspere tells me.

“I never really worry about failure. I do in the way that everyone does with day to day anxiety. But, so much of liftUplift comes out of myself. I don’t worry that that will be taken away from me.”

In the past few weeks, she’s been to Russia and shares a bit of her journey to meet Danara Buvayeva the founder of IconicDress.ru, a fashion rental platform like Rent the Runway for Russia.

Last October, American Councils for International Education and WorldChicago placed her as an Intern/Fellow with liftUPlift for 3-weeks, as part of an international business leaders exchange program. Danara was inspired by how well women entrepreneurs are organized and supporting one another in Chicago. When we had the opportunity to propose a reciprocal exchange project for Danara and I to carry out in Moscow, we pitched a 2-day conference for connecting and empowering women entrepreneurs in the US and Russia. And THAT’S how the #W4W Conference was born!

This April, while in Moscow for the conference, I got to visit the Iconic аренда вечерних платьев -прокатshowroom and learn a little more about Danara’s business model. 

liftUplift’s Ally Awards sponsors included: Catalyst Ranch, Lime Red Studio, RISE Movement, and The Tulle Project!

Are you a Chicago female entrepreneur? Share your story with Windy City Cosmo by emailing Amanda at windycitycosmo.com.

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How a Chicago Tech Power Couple is Teaching a Billion Kids to Code

Katy Lynch wants a billion kids to learn how to code. And she stepped down from her job as CEO of Techweek, to pursue her passion and launch her second start-up this year in Chicago.

Using today’s technology and building a new, simpler code syntax called KidScript, Lynch is transforming a seemingly solo and challenging endeavor – learning how to code – into a collaborative, empowering and interactive program.

Over the past 15 months, Lynch partnered with her husband and former start-up co-founder of Belly, Craig Ulliott. Ulliott and Lynch had previously built the digital media firm, SocialKaty, which was acquired by Manifest Digital in 2014. Together again, this tech power couple created Codeverse, the world’s first hackable classroom and vertically integrated technology platform designed to teach children ages 6 to 12 the vital skill of coding.

codeverse-founders

A Mission-Driven Business:

“My husband and I have a lot of shared experience in the tech world and educating the next generation of tech stars has always been important to us. This was one of the reasons we jumped into the tech space to create Codeverse,” Lynch shared.

As an experienced start-up founder, Lynch stresses the importance of defining your mission.

“Define your mission, your vision, and your values early on – that dictates your company culture and who you hire. For Codeverse, we came up with the mission statement – ‘teach a billion kids to code’. We are a mission-driven business.”

To develop this kid’s coding program, Lynch and Ulliott hired an in-house curriculum team and worked with a large group of certified K-12 teachers for over a year.

“We’ve conducted over 450 product demos with kids, and all have them completed Codeverse. They’ve generated their own app or game in 20 minutes. It’s gratifying to get kids excited early on.”

Daniel Kelleghan Photography-24820.jpg

Is Learning How to Code Really That Easy?

With coding, there are many different languages to learn such as HTML and Python and Ruby.

“There are multiple ways to perform one action with different languages. Many of these languages are way too advanced for kids to learn,” Lynch explains, ” I’m 32, and it’s difficult for me!”

To assimilate kids to learn to code, the Codeverse team built their real programming language based on the core concepts, of other languages, such as “if” statements, variables, and loops.

“The thing that makes this awesome is if a child wants to learn another language, like Ruby, it’s easy to transition,” said Lynch.

As kids learn to code, the program adapts to their learning needs by giving kids more or fewer lessons depending on how easy it is for them to advance to the next level.

Daniel Kelleghan Photography-24339

Building a Collaborative Environment for Kids to Code:

One aspect of Codeverse is the virtual world, but the second dimension of the business plan is the physical one.

“We’ve done a lot of research – we want kids to code in a collaborative environment,” Lynch shared.

Social interaction plays an integral part in the development process for children, and the support provided by the teaching specialists aids in the learning process.

When starting a business plan as an entrepreneur, Lynch shares that you want to take steps to relay to your investors that “you are a) the right person for the job and b) that you can prove you can scale.”

To do this, she advises to do your research and define your competitive landscape. Think about your business model, and how your business is going to generate revenue.

For Codeverse, Lynch created a new business model by creating a physical space for kids to learn to code together. Upon entering the studio, they pick up an iPad with their name on it. Using the iPad, they can write code that manipulates components of the studio, like activating drones, robotic arms or 3D printers. The million-dollar facility is also full of collaborative and social elements, such as a 20-foot screen where 10 children can collaborate on coding challenges at a single time.

“If you’re sitting in the Codeverse studio and you want to change the lights from white to red,” Lynch said, “We give the tutorials on how to do that. You’re coding to have that end result.”

While the adaptive program is online, there is an on-site staff of certified K-12 teachers from the Chicagoland area in the Codeverse studio.

Daniel Kelleghan Photography-24478

Codeverse Launches in Lincoln Park:

The first location will open in Chicago in Lincoln Park in July 2017 with plans to expand to three additional locations in Chicago and ultimately, nationally and internationally.

Codeverse has many different types of memberships based on after-school or summer session.

“The ultimate goal is that kids are coming into the space to have fun, be creative and collaborate with peers to build and create apps and games,” Lynch said.

Parents can sign-up or learn more about the memberships starting at $125 a month by visiting Codeverse.

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