TechGirlz, a Philadelphia-area nonprofit founded nearly 10 years ago to ignite a passion for technology among middle school girls, is being acquired by an Illinois-based nonprofit in a deal designed to create a more reliable pipeline of IT workers nationwide.
The acquirer, Creating IT Futures, which helps prepare adults underrepresented in the tech field for such careers, is no stranger to TechGirlz. It has been one of its funders for five years, and TechGirlz founder Tracey Welson-Rossman has served on its board for the last three years.
"We felt together our combined efforts would increase both of our goals and support both of our missions," said Charles Eaton, CEO of Creating IT Futures.
TechGirlz's free workshops got off to a popular start around Philadelphia and have now engaged 15,000 girls in 14 states. They will operate as a program under Creating IT Futures, but TechGirlz will remain headquartered in Philadelphia.
"The brand and logo stay the same. Our website will also be separate," said Welson-Rossman, who is also chief marketing officer at Fort Washington developer Chariot Solutions, where TechGirlz is housed.
Eaton said that while nonprofit consolidation is sometimes a sign of trouble, usually with the acquired entity, that is not the case with TechGirlz, which has an annual budget of $200,000 and six employees.
With a budget of $6.25 million and a staff of 25, Creating IT Futures, founded in 1998 by trade group Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA, can help extend TechGirlz's reach among a demographic Eaton's agency wanted to get involved with, he said.
"TechGirlz is doing great," Eaton said, adding that the goal now is to "accelerate their growth and accelerate their impact."
Applauding that aspiration is Ellen Weber, someone who knows what it feels like to be a relative rarity: a female investor. She is executive director of Robin Hood Ventures and also heads Temple University's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute.
"If we don't have women following tech careers … we are really going to fall behind" as an economy, Weber said. "I think it's one of the best ways to narrow the wage gap, narrow the skills gap. It's tech, baby!"
The combination of TechGirlz and Creating IT Futures underscores both the expected growing need for IT workers and a continuing shortage of women in such jobs, Welson-Rossman said.
TechGirlz has yet to do a long-term assessment to find out how many of the 15,000 girls who participated in its workshops currently have a tech job or are pursuing a computer science degree.
"We have conducted exit surveys from our workshops and with recent alums over the last several years. The results have been very encouraging — over 90 percent intend to continue pursuing tech education or careers," said Welson-Rossman.