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Silicon Valley is a boys club. This woman-led startup is doing something about it.by Natalia Angulo-Hinkson
Economics & Business#findmyflock

WATCH  |  More than half of women in technology exit the industry mid-career for reasons such as they feel there's no room for advancement. This female-run startup wants to change that.

Kate Catlin doesn't have a traditional path into tech. She didn't study computer science. She doesn't have an engineering or tech degree. 

"I never meant to end up in this industry, but I wrote a couple lines of code and realized I loved this," the founder of startup accelerator Flock told Circa. 

But she says she's faced enough instances of straight up sexism that have made her want to bail. Rather than quit, those "paper cut" moments, she says, pushed her to launch Flock to help advance women in tech.

She recalls walking up to a booth at a conference to ask about a product and being quickly dismissed. "This guy said to me, 'Oh, this is really more for real backend developers,'" she said. 

The former coder says the most disheartening part was feeling that only her appearance mattered. "He looked at me and decided I didn't have the knowledge," she said.

Women make up 47 percent of America's workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, only a fraction of those jobs are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. Flock wants to change that.

More than half (56 percent) of women leave the industry mid-career, the Center for Talent Innovation finds. The turnover rate for women in tech is nearly double that of men's, the same data reveals.

The top reasons they quit? Per a McKinsey study, lack of role models, support and growth opportunities.

Prior to launching, Flock asked women what was missing. "Many described this nebulous idea of just wanting to feel more solidarity," Catlin said.

Flock's answer is to "find them before they hit that breaking point, and then transition them to a new job on a more inclusive team that is a real growth step for them," the startup founder explains. 

Incidentally, per the National Center for Women and Information Technology, 80 percent of these women are still in the workforce -- they're just taking their STEM skills to other sectors, like non-profits or even the government.

"We are still in the workforce, we're just not in your industry anymore."

Kate Catlin, Founder, Flock

This isn't an excuse of leaving the workforce to start a family. As Catlin puts it, "We are still in the workforce, we're just not in your industry anymore." 

What separates Flock from the pack is their mentorship program and network of corporate clients. The Colorado startup has already had a dozen companies come to them for help filling jobs.

And the U.S. government expects there to be 1.8 million jobs in the tech field by 2018.

For Catlin, who has previously also launched a company to help women find women mentors (think of it like Tinder or Match, but for mentors), it's more than just a women's issue -- it's an ethical one.

"If you look at the percentage of women who are looking for mentors, and don't have one, and then you look at the percentage of women in this country who are looking for a date because they're single, there are more women in this country looking for a mentor than a date," she said.

The tech industry's "boys' club" mentality has led to it being plagued with gender discrimination scandals and sexual harassment suits

"The tech industry is very much male dominated," David Grasso of GenFKD told Circa. "When you don’t have enough women in an organization, what happens is there’s not women at every level of management. So management isn’t really concerned with women’s issues."

"And leave us with companies who are run with one voice."

Kate Catlin, Founder, Flock

Flock says if companies don't get serious about diversity now, those problems will get harder to clean up and less people will be inspired to go into tech.

"All that's going to do is drive more women out. And, again leave us with companies who are run with one voice, and they just don't understand the implications," she said.

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