The tech sector’s explosion in New Orleans over the last 20 years is one the country’s great economic development stories: a city known for tourism and oil and gas — battered after Hurricane Katrina — reinvents itself as the Silicon Bayou. Today, more than 100 tech companies, from start-ups to global corporations are hiring workers and doing business in the Crescent City, thanks to a pro-business environment, generous tax incentives and a vibrant culture that has long valued creativity and ideation.
But what’s also happening in New Orleans is that it’s become a place where women in technology are thriving. In 2017, the city earned the No. 5 spot in Smart Asset’s Best Cities for Women in Tech. “Compared to other big cities across the country, New Orleans appears to be one of the ones with a better environment for female tech workers,” the report states. “Women and men in mathematical and computer occupations earn about the same amount of money. And women fill about 35% of those positions.”
More recently, market analytics firm Emsi ranked New Orleans second in the nation for the percentage of women in tech jobs in the U.S., and seventh in the nation for African Americans. It included New Orleans in the top 12 cities with high tech jobs in North America, giving it high marks for inclusivity.
Wendy Dolan, founder of the website and digital marketing firm, Get Online NOLA, and the former president of New Orleans Women in Technology, says the Crescent City has grown an ecosystem that supports the growth of female coders, programmers and digital marketers.
“What’s clear is that there are a lot of things in place in New Orleans to keep the momentum flowing for women in tech,” Dolan says.
Here are some examples:
With big players like GE Digital, DXC Technology, inXile Entertainment, Accruent and High Voltage Software saying yes to New Orleans, as well as homegrown tech start-ups hitting their stride, the number of tech jobs available in New Orleans has grown by leaps and bounds. According to BISNOW, which ranked New Orleans in its list of strong tech markets emerging in unexpected places, the number of STEM jobs in the city is 21,870 with a 7.2% increase in such jobs, year over year. More jobs mean more opportunities for women applicants.
Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet, Lord Byron, was a 19thCentury English mathematician and writer who advanced knowledge that led to the development of the computer as we know it. The Ada Lovelace Awards, founded by the New Orleans startup studio, LookFar, in 2015, honors Lovelace’s legacy and showcases the work of modern women in technology throughout the Gulf South. LookFar produces the awards ceremony, held in the Crescent City each spring. Some of this year’s winners included Dr. Nashlie Sephus, founder of the Jackson, MS-based nonprofit The Bean Path and a software development engineer with Amazon in Atlanta, GA; and Lafayette, LA-based Laurel Hess, founder and CEO of the on-demand laundry start-up, hampr.
New Orleans has also proven itself a robust setting for intense tech training. The city is a host site for Charlotte-based Tech Talent South, which provides eight-week boot camp-style training sessions in cities with strong tech ecosystems. Students enroll in sessions on such sought after disciplines like coding, design, integration, starting up and more. Courses are taught at the shared workspace, The Warehouse, in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans.
New Orleans is already known as a city where it’s easy to connect and network, so it’s no surprise that a weekly gathering known as Tuesday Hack Night has become a fabled and favorite activity among those who work in the tech sector. Started by woman-in-tech Sia Karamelegos, Tuesday Hack Nights are social gatherings held at the Ace Hotel for individuals working at all levels of the tech industry or who want to break in. It’s also a place where those who feel passionately about the industry can brainstorm ways to keep improving it in the Crescent City.
As the tech sector has advanced in New Orleans, so has the city’s higher education workforce pipeline. The University of New Orleans has significantly expanded its academic programs in computer science to ensure that more college students have the option to enter the local tech field. As far back as 2012, UNO worked with GE Digital to create the Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program, or SWEAP. It allows computer science undergraduate students to work alongside GE software engineers. This real-world experience better prepares young people for the workplace. Moreover, UNO has created sub-disciplines in cyber security, bioinformatics and game development in which students can specialize.
Your next tech career could be in Louisiana. Complete your free profile on Louisiana Job Connection today.