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Pricilla Weixler of Startup Mannheim shares how they’re inspiring women to engage with technology and entrepreneurship

This year, Startup Mannheim is coming to the me Convention to host a special workshop based on their Women in Tech initiative. Last week, one the of the founders of the program, Pricilla Weixler, was kind enough to give us some insight into how they are supporting and inspiring women who want to work in the technology sector.

Hi Pricilla! Can you tell us more about Startup Mannheim and what you do there?

Sure, Startup Mannheim is the startup ecosystem builder in Mannheim. Our vision is to create a nourishing urban atmosphere because we believe it is a key factor for creativity, exchange and innovation.

We support startups in various industries, from medical technology to IT to the creative sector. To do so, we run accelerator or cross-innovation programs and host around 300 startups. As a subsidiary of the City of Mannheim, we proactively research ways to improve urban culture.

At Startup Mannheim, I manage the IT-B2B Accelerator and set up the Women in Tech Initiative with my colleagues Lena and Birka.

What was the reason you set up Women in Tech? What kind of initiatives does it involve?

Startup Mannheim has been around for about 10 years, and two years ago we realized that we have barely any tech startups that are founded by women. I felt this personally in the accelerator program we are running – in the first editions I was often the only women in the room.

Our goal is to create an enduring and diverse startup ecosystem because we believe in diversity as a driver for creativity. Therefore, we definitely want to have an equal ratio of men and women founders in the future, as well as bring in international influence.

The initial kickoff for Women in Tech was the Female’s Favour{IT}e Conference in Spring 2018. We worked with the non-profit organization Hackerstolz e.V. to make it happen. In the end it was such a successful event with a great vibe, sponsored by various companies and SMEs in the region. For us it was also great to see so many young women who are interested and curious about tech and entrepreneurship.

So, we recognized the potential and built the Women in Tech initiative that has both an inspiring and a hands-on aspect. On one hand, we want to inspire women to engage with technology and entrepreneurship by showing them what is possible by presenting role models. On the other hand, we want to connect these like-minded women and give them insights and practical knowledge. That’s why we held the Female's Favour{IT}e conference for the second time this year and started monthly input sessions on different technology topics.

Why do you think that the tech field is less welcoming to women than other sectors?

I do not believe that the tech sector is in itself less inviting for women. But I have the feeling that the stigma surrounding the technology field is not inviting at all. My favorite quote comes from Janneke Niessen, a Dutch founder and business angel: 'If you ask girls if they want to work in technology, they say no, if you ask them if they want to work for Instagram, they say yes'. After all, the company's culture is crucial when it comes to whether it's inviting or not.

What do we need to change to improve the gender balance in this field?

We definitely have to get the tech image out of the 'Nerd Corner' and show what is possible with it and how it has changed in recent years. I think that this old image of a hacker with the hooded sweatshirt sitting in the basement and eating pizza still prevents many women from studying or working in technology. As well as the fact that we still unconsciously tell girls from an early age that tech is for boys. If we could change this old perception, more women would certainly be willing to study technical subjects, and it would be more normal for a woman to work in tech. From various conversations with women in this area I can conclude that for most of them it is very important that the workplace itself is flexible and supportive and offers the opportunity to combine family and career.

What advice would you give to women starting out in the tech sector?

Think big. The tech field is growing at a rapid pace, so there is a real potential for growth for you.

What can participants expect if they attend you Women in Tech session at the me Convention?

We’re still finalizing the details, but you can certainly expect very inspiring and visionary women who are having an impact on the technology sector.

Disclaimer: The views of me Convention speakers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either Mercedes-Benz and/or SXSW.