Houston named among the top cities for women in technology

Who runs the world?

Houston has been deemed the sixth best city for women in technology, according to a SmartAsset report. Christina Morillo/Pexels

Houston fell two places in SmartAsset's latest ranking of the best U.S. cities for women in technology but remains in the top 10.

SmartAsset's sixth annual study, released February 6, puts Houston at No. 6 among the top cities for women in tech. That's down from the No. 4 spot in SmartAsset's 2019 study. However, Houston still holds the No. 1 ranking among Texas cities.

"Only one of five most-populated U.S. cities — Houston — makes it into our top 15 cities for women working in the tech industry," says SmartAsset, a personal finance website.

In all, SmartAsset analyzed 59 of the largest U.S. cities to find the best places for women in tech to work and live. The website judged each city on four factors:

  • Gender pay gap in the tech industry
  • Average earnings after subtracting median costs for housing
  • Women as a percentage of the tech workforce
  • Four-year growth in tech employment

In Houston, average earnings for women in tech represented 99 percent of men's earnings in 2018, SmartAsset found. That amounts to a difference of $451. Houston also boasts the eighth highest average amount of earnings for women in tech after deducting costs for housing ($64,464), according to SmartAsset.

Furthermore, the study shows women hold down 25.8 percent of tech jobs in Houston, compared with the 59-city average of 26.1 percent.

Houston's showing in the SmartAsset study bolsters the region's amped-up efforts to evolve into a tech hub.

In April 2019, the Wall Street Journal noted those efforts were jump-started after Amazon rejected Houston as a candidate for the e-commerce giant's hotly pursued second headquarters. These initiatives include attracting startups and venture capital, and ramping up programs aimed at accelerating innovation.

"We already knew we were not in the top tier of what has been happening globally as far as innovation," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the Wall Street Journal. "But Amazon passing us over was a real wake-up call that we could not be walking towards building this new ecosystem. We had to sprint."

Here are the top 10 cities for women in tech, according to SmartAsset:

  1. Baltimore
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Arlington, Virginia
  4. Chesapeake, Virginia
  5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  6. Houston
  7. Long Beach, California,
  8. Chandler, Arizona
  9. Philadelphia
  10. Durham, North Carolina

In the SmartAsset study, Houston fared much better than its big-city counterparts in Texas. Fort Worth came in at No. 17, with Plano tied for 27th, San Antonio tied for 37th, Irving at No. 39, Austin at No. 49, and Dallas at No. 54 (five spots from the bottom).

To find the best cities for women in tech, SmartAsset looked at data for cities that had at least 200,000 residents in 2018. The website then removed cities that lacked reliable data, leaving a pool of 59 cities.

Findings in the SmartAsset study stand in contrast to a recent ranking by CompTIA, a tech industry trade group, of the 20 best metro areas in the U.S. for IT jobs. Austin ranked first, and Dallas appeared at No. 7. Houston didn't make the list.
Silver Ehiwario flipped careers a while back, and now she hopes to help other women with that process. Courtesy of Silver Ehiwario

Houston software developer helps bring Women Who Code to town

Featured Innovator

Silver Ehiwario worked to attain two chemical engineering degrees and had been in the industry in Nigeria for seven years when she decided she wanted to change her career path.

"I started thinking about making a switch when I found out I had this interest in being creative and building solutions for businesses so that they can become more effective and grow," Ehiwario says. "I like to be able to put my thoughts into the computer and see people use it."

She's not alone. Ehiwario and a few like-minded women are responsible for bringing the California-based nonprofit organization, Women Who Code, to Houston. On March 5, the Houston chapter celebrated its launch. At the event, the organization engaged its new members and asked them what they wanted from the organization. The feedback they received will drive the programing and events they will focus on, Ehiwario says.

"At the end of the day, I called for anyone open to mentoring. We had a whole lot of turnout — people were ready to inspire other women with what they do best," Ehiwario says. "I don't think there is a whole lot of other groups out there where your interest is represented and worked on."

Ehiwario spoke with InnovationMap about what she's excited about for Women Who Code in Houston and how she managed to change careers from a chemical engineer to a software developer.

InnovationMap: Did you find it easy to find resources for starting a new career in coding?

Silver Ehiwario: It wasn't easy — maybe I didn't know what I wanted. I searched online for something I could actually do where I wanted to do it. I decided to try the University of Texas' bootcamp here in Houston. It was very hard at first. I was very new to coding. I never used the computer other than for emails and basic work.

IM: How did you first get involved with Women Who Code?

SE: I had a colleague in the bootcamp who introduced me to it. I found out more online and it kind of aligned with what I wanted and I liked the idea of having support. In 2017, I applied to be a director so that we could have a network here. Everything started happening here at the end of 2018.

IM: Who is a part of the Houston chapter?

SE: There are seven of us. Julie Jonak, Roopa Rajala, Shefali Kapoor-Patel, Wanjun Zhang, Aditi Singh, Saima Rajwani, and myself.

IM: What's the program like?

SE: What draws me to Women Who Code is the mission and the vision. The mission is to inspire women to excel in their technology careers, and the vision is to have a world where women are representative of technical executives, founders, chairmen, and software engineer. We have people old and young. Our code of conduct has to do with inclusiveness — if you love technology, you're welcomed.

IM: Why is it important to Houston that Women Who Code have a chapter here?

SE: Houston is a huge community. I know there's a lot of tech people out here. We are able to see a lot of people are changing their careers from what they have done before — just like I changed mine. We need communities where they can be inspired. I've met people who just finished a coding bootcamp, are job hunting, and are kind of depressed. This community will be able to inspire them.

We need Women Who Code in Houston to support these women in tech — to close the gender gap and create a good working environment. If women succeed, girls will see that and it will give them that encouragement and motivation.

IM: How does someone get involved?

SE: Online. Sign up to be a member, join our Facebook network, and our LinkedIn network. We'll soon roll out our schedule of when we meet.

IM: Advice for someone wanting to switch careers?

SE: I like talking about this a lot. If you want to change your career to something in the tech industry, I would just say to take it one step at a time. Find one of the bootcamps out there and get connected. And join a network like Women Who Code so you can have a network and support after you leave that bootcamp.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.

Houston has been deemed the fourth best city for women in technology, according to a SmartAsset report. Christina Morillo/Pexels

Houston named 4th best metro for women in tech by a new study

Who run the world?

If you're a woman in the technology industry here in Houston, you're in the right place. Houston was recognized as the 4th best city in the United States for women in technology jobs, according to a report from SmartAsset.

The study took into consideration four key factors; gender pay gap, income after housing, and percentage of tech jobs filled by women were all double weighted, while four-year employment growth was factored in. Using data from the U.S. Census, SmartAsset only looked at cities with populations of 200,000 residents or more that had reliable data, which left the study with 58 cities across the country.

Houston's tech pay is what stood out for the city. The average female tech worker in the Bayou City has $60,600 left from her salary after paying for a home, and Houston ranks eighth overall in this metric. With a ratio of 99 percent, Houston's wage gap when it comes to tech jobs ranked the city No. 3 for smallest wage gap. However, at 26 percent, Houston has a somewhat low percentage of women in tech positions.

No other Texas cities appeared on the list, though it's unclear if they were among the 58 cities evaluated as a part of the study. Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia ranked ahead of Houston. California's major tech players — such as San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — all ranked in the middle of the pack or worse.

The studied compared the cities against the national average. The full list of the top 15 cities, seen below, all ranked higher than the national average, based on the study's index.

This isn't the first time this year that Texas has been recognized as a good place for women in business. In January, a study found that the Lone Star State was No. 1 for female entrepreneurs. However, when it comes to STEM jobs, another report found Houston to be less desirable of a metro. But, as the SmartAsset study found, affordability is important, and Houston was deemed one of the most affordable cities to live in this year.

Via SmartAsset

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

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As Houston transitions into summer, the city's tech and innovation ecosystem enters a new season — but with the same level of entrepreneurialism and can-do spirit.

This week's innovators to know includes a Houston tech founder fresh off fundraising, an architect with the future of the workplace, and a startup leader with a way to digitally connect churches to their congregations.

Joe Alapat, CEO and co-founder of Liongard

Courtesy of Liongard

After raising a $17 million round for his startup, Joe Alapat, CEO of Liongard, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss fundraising during a pandemic and how he's seen the Houston innovation ecosystem grow.

In the episode, Alapat also shares his advice for Houston startups looking to tap into the Houston innovation ecosystem — something he's watched grow over the past five years. Now, he says, when it comes to new startups in Houston, "the waves are hitting the shore."

"Houston has always been an entrepreneurial city, and this is just that next stage," Alapat says on the episode. "For me, it's the technology side that excites me even more to see technology companies really succeeding." Listen to the episode and read more.

Day Edwards, founder and CEO of Church Space

Photo courtesy of Church Space

Large gathering places have been shut down for months at this point, and that includes places of worship. Houston entrepreneur Day Edwards, founder and CEO of Church Space, usually focuses on connection organizations to spaces for worship or events. But, she is now focused on getting services online for congregations to connect with.

"It felt like the perfect opportunity to give churches a way to reach more people during the pandemic," says Edwards. "This would create more impact than anything we could possibly offer at this time." Read more.

Larry Lander, principal at PDR

Photo courtesy of PDR

While much of the country has been working from home for weeks, Larry Lander opines that this has made physical office space more important than ever.

"As a place to provide a technology offering we don't enjoy at our kitchen table, as a place to better support small group work beyond the tiny real estate of our laptop screens, and as a place that physically represents what our organizations are truly all about," he writes in a guest column for InnovationMap. The role of the workplace has never been more critical to business success." Read more.

Houston area gets failing score on social distancing, according to report

We got an F

According to a study that evaluated social distancing execution in counties, the Houston area didn't do so well and earned failing scores all around.

A widely used social distancing scoreboard from Unacast, a provider of location data and analytics, shows only one county in the Houston area — Austin County — received a grade above an F for social distancing as of May 20. But Austin County doesn't have much to brag about, since its social-distancing score is a D-. The Houston area's eight other counties, including Harris, flunked.

Relying on a huge storehouse of cellphone data, the Unacast scoreboard measures social distancing activity on a daily basis in every state and county compared with activity before the coronavirus outbreak. The scorecard assigns a letter grade of A through F based on current social-distancing behavior.

Each grade takes into account three factors:

  • Percentage change in average distance traveled compared with the pre-coronavirus period
  • Percentage change in visits to nonessential places compared with the pre-coronavirus period
  • Decrease in person-to-person encounters compared with the national pre-coronavirus average

So, how did Harris County, for instance, fare in those three categories? On May 20, its grade in each category was an F. Why? Because it had less than a 25 percent reduction in average mobility (based on distance traveled), less than a 55 percent reduction in nonessential visits, and less than a 40 percent decrease in "encounters density" compared with the national average.

The scoreboard indicates Harris County's grades have bounced around. On April 4, for example, Harris County received an A in the nonessential-visit category for reducing those visits by at least 70 percent.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in an interview published May 20 that he's worried the easing of social distancing in Houston will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.

"I think here in Houston we're underachieving in a lot of aspects in public health, and it's no fault of the … public health leaders," Hotez said.

In Texas, the Houston area isn't alone in its apparent failure, at least recently, to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.

On May 20, not a single county in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio metro areas earned higher than a D on the Unacast report card.

All five counties in the Austin area got F's, as did all 13 counties in Dallas-Fort Worth, according to the scoreboard.

But as with Harris County, other metro areas' scores in individual categories have fluctuated over time. Here are a few examples:

  • On April 4, Travis and Dallas counties earned an A for at least a 70 percent reduction in nonessential visits.
  • On April 11, Tarrant County received a B for a 55 percent to 70 percent drop in average mobility.

In the San Antonio area, Bandera County earned the highest grade (D) of any county in the state's four major metros. Atascosa and Medina counties eked out grades of D-, while the remainder of the area's counties wound up in the F column.

In line with trends for its major-county counterparts, Bexar County's social distancing scores in individual categories have gone up and down. On April 11, for example, Bexar County earned a B for a 55 percent to 70 percent decline in average mobility.

The scores for the state's major metros appear to reflect the recent loosening of stay-at-home restrictions across Texas. But health experts still recommend sticking with social-distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, Unacast points out that the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite social distancing as the "most effective way" to combat coronavirus infections.

Unacast says it launched the social-distancing scoreboard in March to enable organizations to measure and grasp the efficiency of local social-distancing efforts.

"Data can be one of society's most powerful weapons in this public health war," Thomas Walle, co-founder and CEO of Unacast, says in an April 16 release.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Texas startup’s at-home COVID-19 test finally approved by feds

CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE

After its earlier effort was tripped up, Austin-based startup Everlywell on May 16 finally gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to launch its at-home coronavirus test.

In a May 18 release, Everlywell says the self-administered test will be available later this month. The company, which specializes in at-home tests for an array of conditions, is the first to receive approval from the FDA for an at-home coronavirus test that's not associated with a lab or a manufacturer of diagnostic products.

The FDA's emergency authorization allows Everlywell to work with a number of certified labs that process authorized tests, rather than just a single lab.

"The authorization of a COVID-19 at-home collection kit that can be used with multiple tests at multiple labs not only provides increased patient access to tests, but also protects others from potential exposure," Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, says in a release.

Everlywell's at­-home test determines the presence or absence of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID­-19 illness. Everlywell's test kit uses a short nasal swab and includes:

  • A digital screening questionnaire reviewed by a healthcare provider.
  • Instructions on how to ship the test sample to a lab.
  • Digital results within 48 hours of the sample being received by the lab.
  • Results reviewed by an independent physician.

Anyone who tests positive test will receive a telehealth consultation. All positive test results are reported to federal and local public health agencies when mandated.

On March 23, Everlywell was supposed to start shipping 30,000 coronavirus test kits to U.S. consumers. But before a single test was sent, the FDA blocked distribution of at-home, self-administered tests from Everlywell and other companies. After that, Everlywell pivoted to supplying coronavirus tests to health care providers and organizations.

As with the company's previously approved coronavirus test, Everlywell says its test for individuals is sold at no profit. The $109 price covers costs such as overnight shipping to a lab, lab-processing fees, and kit components. Some health insurers cover coronavirus tests.

Everlywell says it's working with members of Congress to enable companies that are neither healthcare providers nor labs to be directly reimbursed by health insurers. The startup also is exploring how its coronavirus test could be made available for free.

"Widespread access to convenient testing will play a crucial role in the country's ability to address the pandemic and prevent overburdening our healthcare facilities. As the national leader in connecting people with high­-quality laboratory testing, we are committed to fighting the spread of this virus in America," Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell, says in the Everlywell release.

The company continues to supply its coronavirus tests to qualified healthcare organizations and government agencies.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.