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Owning it: Women in Business

The tech industry has a gender problem. It’s estimated that less than 29% of the tech workforce are women. And the closer you get to the top, the wider that gap gets. According to a recent Forbes article, just 1.9% of enterprise software startups are founded or co-founded by women

At Hutch, we’re working to change this. We aim to elevate and support the women and BIPOC entrepreneurs who face structural barriers to entry in the tech space. And in honor of Women’s History Month, we hosted our first virtual roundtable panel discussion centered around female representation in government. 

During the discussion, Hutch Board Members and women-founders shared inspiring stories about their experiences as women in the tech and entrepreneurial spaces. They also offered advice to other women founders on how to navigate being a woman in tech, government contracting, and business — fields that have historically been male-dominated and often have a poor track record when it comes to including women.

Panel discussion included stories from:

  • Summer Bazemore, CEO, Ey3 Technologies – Hutch Class of 2020
  • Koffi Harrison, CEO & Founder, UpLight – Hutch Class of 2020
  • Lauren Lockwood, Founder & Principal, Bloom Works – Hutch Board Member
  • Nichole Weems, Portfolio Director, Health and Science, Fearless – Hutch Board Member

We were honored to have such a powerhouse group of women share their experiences. As Lauren said during the panel, “Being an example of existing in the government space is really impactful. To be a home for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs looking to enter the space is what really drives impact and creates a sense of community.”

And Koffi really hammered home the importance of increasing access to opportunities. “As a Hutch company, opportunity is important,” she said. “I like to say it only takes an opportunity with the right support to make your mark in government. Opening those doors for other underrepresented individuals is a way in which we impact the government now.”

At Hutch, we also believe in the power of opportunity. And by increasing women and BIPOC founders’ access to opportunities in the digital services space, we can start to actually move the needle on diversity in the tech space.

How we define what matters to us

When you think of Hutch, we hope you think of our mission to nurture, empower, and connect underrepresented entrepreneurs who are working toward the public good. It’s our vision to create a diverse ecosystem of digital services firms that transform the way our government serves its people. But how exactly do we do this?

In the end, it always comes down to impact. While profit is critical, it’s not the be-all and end-all at Hutch. To us, true success means leaving the government and the world better than you found it. In fact, that’s a key reason why Hutch was started in the first place. Since our founding in 2019, we’ve worked to build not just successful and sustainable companies, but ones who use tech for good.

To help us ensure that we’re always driving towards impact, we defined our core values in 2021. Establishing our values at Hutch allowed us to focus our energies on what matters most: the people we serve. Our values speak to who we are and what we stand for, and they’re the driving force behind how we work together at Hutch.

So, what are our values?

  • Be transparent. We’re all on the same team, so we share information openly and candidly. We value each others’ voices, building trust through open communication.
  • Take accountability. We own our impact. Our Hutch companies are in the driver’s seat of their business, so we trust and empower them to move their work forward.
  • Coach and be coached. We’re all both students and teachers at Hutch. We empower each other to share expertise, but we also keep things humble, seeking out opportunities to learn and improve.
  • Put people first. Empathy is a core part of how we operate. We take a people-first approach to everything we do, putting ourselves in others’ shoes to not just deliver great services, but make the greatest impact.
  • Follow your passion. We believe you should love what you do and do what you love. Passion fuels our work and drives us to constantly strive to do better for our customers and our communities.

We want to build a better world with our Hutch companies, and our values help show us how we’ll get there. They define what it looks like to build a diverse and inclusive ecosystem of digital services firms that value people, culture, and community. And they make it clear that, together, we can change the world.

Redefining the landscape of government for women in technology

It’s no secret that women entrepreneurs are underrepresented in the business world. In fact, this problem is so well known that the Small Business Administration created a program to address it. The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program requires agencies to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. But in the past sixteen years, this goal has only been met a handful of times. 

This isn’t due to a lack of women entrepreneurs. In 2019, 42% of all businesses in the U.S. were women-owned. And this number seems to be growing. A LinkedIn study found that, during the pandemic, women-founded companies grew by 27%, while others grew by just 17%. 

So, why do women continue to be underrepresented in business? 

One of the main barriers that women entrepreneurs face — especially women of color — is lack of access to opportunities, capital, and support. This lack of support is especially critical in the government contracting space, which is highly complex and difficult to break into. 

Clair Koroma is the Chief of Staff, Cloud Computing Program Officer, at the U.S. Department of Defense, and she understands how important it is for women in government to have a network of support. 

“I think that this community is incredibly important to the success of government missions,” Koroma said. “For women in the field, I believe that it’s really important to have role models / mentors with similar shared experiences.”

At Hutch, we also believe in the power of community as an agent of change. And while the government digital services industry has to do better for women and minority entrepreneurs in many ways, creating a community of support is one way we can combat these historical inequities. And this kind of diversification isn’t just good for women and minority-owned businesses; it’s also critical to the growth and success of the government digital services movement. 

This blog was published independently of the U.S. Department of Defense. This release does not constitute or imply an endorsement by U.S. Department of Defense or the United States Government of the product, process, service, producer, or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense or the United States Government.

Meet Fearless Portfolio Director & Hutch Board Member, Nichole Weems

Fearless and Hutch is made up of a group of people excited to help you grow your business and teach you how to thrive in the world of government contracting. 

Through mentorship, peer-to-peer support, and the tools provided by our dedicated partners and board members, our cohort companies learn how to build not just successful digital services firms, but impactful ones. 

Get to know Fearless Health and Sciences Portfolio Director, and Hutch Board Member, Nichole Weems and how she uses her resources and knowledge in the industry to help create a community of support for our cohorts.

At Fearless, Nichole plays an intricate role in bringing people together and ensuring alignment across the team. Whether it’s introducing federal agencies to new tactics to improve their team and products, or leaning into team goals on projects worked on, Nichole brings purple sauce to every room she enters. 

Since joining the Hutch advisory board in 2021, Nichole has made it her mission to provide our women and BIPOC founders with access to opportunities and a community of support which is often lacking in the government contracting space.

“I joined the Hutch advisory board because I believe in Hutch’s mission and the value that it provides to women and minorities, ” said Nichole. “By joining the board I wanted to be able to provide a voice to how we can grow the program by having a unique lens.”

Having worked with clients at United States Digital Service , and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Nichole brings a level of skill and expertise to the program that fundamentally teaches our cohorts how to bring agile and modern tech principles into the market. 

As Nichole continues to grow in her career, coaching and mentorship are becoming her primary focus. She envisions success through the lens of empowering others to step into the role of a leader, particularly in her current role at Fearless.

“I don’t think I would be as effective as I am today had I stepped into this role day one versus having lived in the shoes of my project team members and engaging closely with developers and designers. Building those intimate relationships helped me become an effective portfolio director because I had that insight, that empathy to see from multiple perspectives and experiences.”

Recently, The Leadership announced the Class of 2022 for its 9-month flagship experiential leadership program. Of the 64 leaders chosen was Nichole Weems, who joins more than 1,800 alumni of the program, including Fearless CEO and Hutch Lead Coach, Delali Dzirasa.

Through the leadership program, Nichole will strengthen her skills and capacity to lead particularly in the civic space, as well as forge substantive relationships with members of the ecosystem to provide a platform for collective action in Baltimore and beyond. 

As Hutch continues to grow, we are excited about how far our cohorts will go under the direction of Nichole and the rest of our talented expert board members.

For more information about Hutch, visit www.hutchstudio.io.

Meet Traci Walker, an Executive Director working to redefine how the government does digital

One of the things that makes Hutch so valuable for our cohort companies is the fact that it’s run by digital services experts and business leaders. We take care to bring on coaches, internal staff, and board members who can offer our cohort companies real insight into the industry. Hutch Board Member Traci Walker is the perfect example of this. 

As the Executive Director of the Digital Services Coalition (DSC), Traci understands how to build community in the government tech space. The DSC is a tightly knit community of small, non-traditional IT contractors who work together to accelerate digital transformation in government. By using technology as a tool to achieve outcomes, the DSC’s member companies are dramatically improving the experience of government services. 

The DSC’s work aligns closely with Hutch’s vision to foster a diverse ecosystem of digital services firms that transform the way our government serves its people, so we were thrilled to bring Traci on as a Board Member in 2021. In this role, Traci works with our other industry experts to help scale the program to support more women and BIPOC entrepreneurs.  

As Traci said, “Hutch is a perfect example of how entrepreneurs can get a leg up in the competitive government digital service market in a safe and inclusive environment.”

Traci’s extensive experience within the industry will help propel our cohort companies in their pursuit to transform the way the government serves its people, and we’re proud to have her on our team.

To learn more about Traci and the Digital Services Coalition, visit https://digitalservicescoalition.org

Defining our core beliefs

Hutch has always been committed to diversifying talent in tech and government spaces. In fact, it’s written into our mission. We nurture, empower, and connect underrepresented entrepreneurs who are working toward the public good. 

Last year, we leaned into our “why” and defined the core beliefs that drive our work. These core beliefs help define how we engage with our community, the support network we create for our cohort companies, and the world we want to build. They remind us each day why we do the work we do, what standards we set for ourselves and our companies, and how we’re best positioned to help our community and cohort companies. 

Our core beliefs

  • We’re stronger together. Community over competition, always. We share knowledge to help each other grow and overcome obstacles, understanding that when our community thrives, we thrive.
  • Representation matters. We believe that business leaders should be as diverse as the communities they come from. That’s why we focus on lifting up people who have historically been left out of the tech space.
  • Dreams drive action. With enough passion, vision, strategy, and support, even the most ambitious ideas can become reality. We empower our cohort companies to dream big for their customers and their communities and to take the strategic risks needed to succeed.
  • We can build a better world. Things like profit and revenue are critical, but to us, success means leaving the government and the world better than you found it.

These beliefs drive everything we do at Hutch, reminding us and our cohort companies to always keep our work focused on its impact on our communities, our government, and on the world. In this way, our core beliefs keep us grounded in the reason we all joined Hutch in the first place: to change the world for the better.