Part II - The Violet Society, By Chelsea Bailey '16

You never know when one chance encounter could introduce you to a whole new world. On my way out of the Boston Girl Geek Dinner, I was feeling satisfied. It was a good night, a great experience and you can read about it here if you missed my last post, and are curious about the event!

As I was getting ready to head out, I was approached by Alice, a Tufts sophomore studying computer science, whom I had met before the talks.   Alice invited me to a gathering of some of the college-aged girls who were headed to Toscanini's to talk about female tech entrepreneurs.

Females in tech? Yummy ice cream from Toscaninis? I'm in!

As I mentioned in Article One, I'm a bit of an introvert, especially around new faces, and as we made our way the few blocks to ice cream paradise, I was surrounded by 8-10 complete strangers. It turns out  that talking about college can be a good way to get to know other college students.   Also - pouring over the challenge of selecting a single ice cream flavor is a great ice-breaker!

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The Violet Society's current emblem: a bracelet made by code!

Gathered around a table in the middle of the crowded shop, we began introductions.   So what is The Violet Society?   In the words of its founder, Tufts rising senior Shriya Nevatia, The Violet Society is "a startup sisterhood for future founders."

The idea was inspired by a number of observations that Shriya made when switching from a Math major to a Computer Science major.

  • There were very few women her age in her classes and at events. Shriya explained she "...couldn't really relate to women who were 32-50 who were switching into tech careers because they had very different experiences."
  • When attending hackathons and other tech events with her peers,  Shriya felt very outside of their existing culture.   She explains that it was like a "club" that she wasn't in.
  • Lastly, she was reading articles about how few young women are involved in the start-up scene. Most of the people founding companies, pitching to VCs and applying for incubators are young men, not women.

Once Shriya started connecting the pieces, she began to feel inspired.

I realized between all of these things that female undergrads are having a hard time meeting other people to work with at different schools, and even though there are some people who are sick of hearing about Imposter Syndrome and other "women in tech issues", there's a larger group who is just curious about the startup world but not sure if there's a place in it for them. I wanted to build an organization to make sure that you never have to feel alone at a Hackathon, to give design students and business students and computer science students a way to meet and build cool things, and to help intelligent and ambitious young women take over the world! :)

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Shriya Nevatia - the founder herself.

Shriya's ambition and intelligence was clear from the moment she began explaining the idea behind The Violet Society and it remains clear in her continued efforts to push the organization forward. I joined the Facebook page immediately after the initial meeting and have since seen a number of regular postings on everything from events in the area to fun articles about the tech start-up scene.

There are a lot of widespread media campaigns starting up to push the idea of women in tech,  and to alert society to the ever-present but oft-overlooked gender gap in STEM fields. Still, there is a large nebulous space where there is room for growth in outreach and awareness, and organizations like The Violet Society are perfect for patching that void. "I think groups like this will be a more effective way to close the gender gap in our age group than abstract campaigns-- both work well in tandem, but small communities like The Violet Society can really help the women who are already curious or semi-connected find like-minded people with similar interests and create solid friendships and professional contacts," explains Shriya.

So far, I have just skimmed the surface of the growing movement for females in tech. Meeting the women of The Violet Society was my first foray into this world, but it definitely sparked my interest. I'm hoping this article reaches some of you who have dreams of entering start-ups or learning to program, but are letting their fear hold them back. I hope you realize that it is never too late to start exploring your options. If Shriya were here she would be telling you to "meet people who are in tech in your school and even the surrounding city as soon as you can." Even if you've only taken one CS class, it's not too early to start attending  hackathons  and networking events. You might be afraid that you're not experienced or prepared enough, but there are groups for you, no matter what your experience level is. The Violet Society is open to anyone with interest and it's a great way to gain the experience you might fear you lack.

Are you a female interested in the design, entrepreneurship, or software side of start-ups? Join The Violet Society's group on Facebook to stay updated on events, resources, and meet other women just like you!

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