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  • Alex Orlando


I’m going to let you in on a deep, dark secret,” said Denise Castillo-Rhodes, EVP and CFO of the Texas Medical Center, to an audience of technology-oriented women entrepreneurs and innovators. “I’m the most technically challenged person there is on this planet. I can turn on the computer, I can download apps on my iPhone, and I can do a pretty good PowerPoint most of the time—but that’s about the extent of my abilities. So I’m feeling a little bit out of place in a room full of tech-savvy individuals. But I realized that we all have one thing in common: we’re all women, and, generally, we share a lot of similar concerns.”

Many of those concerns can be distilled to a single word: inequality. While women currently have the majority of voting power in the United States (55 percent of voters were women in the 2012 election), account for nine million of our country’s business owners, and generated more than $1.4 trillion in revenue in 2014 alone, the playing field remains unequal. On Saturday, Oct. 17, held at TMCx and hosted by Women In Technology: Houston and the Texas Medical Center, female innovators from throughout Houston came together to celebrate and connect women making waves and having an immediate impact on diverse fields throughout the region.

“Women are more empowered today than ever before and we’re exercising that power,” continued Castillo-Rhodes. “We are CEOs; we are senators; we are physicians; we are school board presidents; and we are women in tech. Well, sadly, women are wildly unrepresented in this industry as well. According to The Atlantic, while 57 percent of occupations in the workforce are held by women, in computing occupations that figure is only 25 percent. We’ve got to get that percentage up.”

Sponsored by Stone Soup Society, January Advisors, Rebellion Photonics and BrainCheck, the reception aimed to bring women innovators together and strengthen our ecosystem by fostering supportive leadership, community, creative business disruption and economic development—all by, and for, women.

“So why focus on women in tech?” said Castillo-Rhodes. “Because you are here, obviously, but Houston is the fastest growing tech center in the nation. And what we do know is that diversity produces better results—it’s not just a hunch. We have resources that consistently prove that on diverse teams, minority voices force the majority to think with more complexity. When you consider a broader array of questions, you tend to make better decisions. That leads to better tech, better products and better companies.”

The event also served to provide a warm welcome to all the attendees in Houston for this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing Conference, designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. With over 7,800 attendees from 65 countries in attendance at GHC 2014, held in Phoenix, Arizona, it is the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing.

“This brunch is a good way to sort of close off this Grace Hopper Conference, for those of you that attended, and just kind of reflect on what you learned and share your thoughts with others,” added Castillo-Rhodes. “When women unite, great things happen. We all bring our own perspectives to the table, and when we come together to work and build each other up, we can effect real change and that’s what we’re going to do today.”

The event also provided an opportunity for women-owned and women-led companies to take the stage at TMCx to introduce themselves and their companies.

“It’s really important that we all start to meet each other and make supporting each other a common practice,” said Grace Rodriguez, founding member of the Mayor’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Board for the City of Houston and a TMCx advisor, who helped orchestrate the event. “When we go to spaces where there are other women, be happy to see them; welcome them into the space. Within this community of women in technology throughout Houston, we need to always look for ways to help each other.”

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