And the number of female startup founders is even lower. Only 18% of the world’s startup founders are women, according to a report by Compass titled the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking. Reports of sexual harassment and a bias toward women are rampant in the tech industry, with a recent study of Silicon Valley female tech workers finding that 60% of women reported being the target of unwanted sexual advances from a superior, and 90% witnessed sexist behavior at company offsites and/or industry conferences. 66% say they’ve been excluded from social or networking opportunities because of gender.
In Chicago, it’s fair to assume the city’s tech industry has many of the same issues women face in Silicon Valley (like a male VC asking a female CEO if she was dating her co-founder).
But Chicago has a one significant bright spot vs other cities when it comes to women in tech: Chicago has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world at 30%, well above the average of 18%.
There’s a sense of togetherness and collaboration among Chicago’s female founders, says Kristi Ross, founder and CEO of investing platform Dough, which she believes is unique to the city’s tech ecosystem.
“I believe that the Midwest mentality here in Chicago of helping others has really come through around collaboration and the ecosystem as a whole,” she said. “And you see that. It’s incredibly inclusive … (People) are always willing to help collaborate and help introduce and help make those connections. It’s wonderful, and it’s been a very welcoming ecosystem.”
To help get a sense of the female entrepreneurship ecosystem in Chicago, we set out to find all of the female founders in the Windy City. With the help of Ms. Tech founder Nicole Yeary, we wanted to showcase as many female-led Chicago startups as we could find.
We hope this list is a useful resource for the Chicago tech community, and a place where people can see the work being done by the city’s female entrepreneurs. We also plan on updating this list with newly formed startups, as well as companies we’ve missed. Undoubtably, we have left people off this list.