January 31, 2024
When GET CITIES (GET stands for Gender Equity in Tech) was founded in 2020, their goal was to tackle a burgeoning tech industry that “deliberately excludes most of the population,” which figured into the equation that tech is “100 years away from gender parity.” They have expanded into advocacy for trans and non-binary workers in the field and Chicago was the first city aboard. Elle Ramel had been the Chicago Director of GET CITIES since its inception.
Ramel has been part of Chicago economic and social development since her career began in positions with the city itself, with City Tech Collaborative in strategic partnerships development and as a Director of Development for the 100 acre Michael Reese Hospital site on the city’s Southside. She was named Chicago Director of GET CITIES in April of 2020. GET CITIES was formed through The SecondMuse Foundation, a nonprofit that prioritizes relationships to drive societal change.
The IVCA interviewed Elle Ramel in the following profile …
IVCA: What is a brief history of the organization and the background of your position with GET CITIES?
Elle Ramel: GET CITIES was founded in 2020 as a program at SecondMuse Foundation. It is a five-year initiative focused on the support of women, trans and non-binary professionals, as founders and investors in the tech ecosystem. GET Cities is a city-based systems approach to gender equity in Chicago, Washington D.C. and Miami. I have been the Chicago Director for the entirety of the program.
IVCA: What are some of your specific goals for 2024, and what infrastructure do you have in place to achieve those goals?
Ramel: My goals in 2024 include providing support and amplification of emerging women and non-binary fund managers in Chicago and the surrounding region. In 2020 I worked with the GET Cities team to initiate the Tech Equity Working Group – a collection of 30 incubators, entrepreneurship support organizations and venture capital firms focused on gender, racial and ethnic parity within the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem. I will work with those partners in regards to helping emerging fund managers. I am glad that IVCA has been able to participate in the working group.
IVCA: What is the current attitude of tech industries for developing diversity, and how do they see it as an advantage for their continuing evolution?
Ramel: I think that the tech industry realizes to create products that are responsive to diverse and international markets, it is necessary to have diverse teams, founders and investors at the table as the industry evolves.
IVCA: Historically and in your research observation, why did tech … which exploded within a relatively more advanced social climate in the last 30 years … continue the practice of underrepresenting women, people of color and other minorities?
Ramel: I think unfortunately much of decision-making when it comes to enterprise growth really boils down to long present cultural norms, especially when it comes to leadership and the financial resources available to grow the tech industry. Much of the finance world that powers these companies are led and staffed by men … it really is important that we bring more diverse investment perspectives to the table and power those principals.
IVCA: DEI programs were both highly criticized in political circles and even litigated to expunge them from the landscape. How will your organization advocate to prevent the weakening of the progress being made?
Ramel: I think that there were many attacks on DEI efforts and initiatives made in 2023 … we felt it especially as we watched groups such as Fearless Fund see their programs have their work challenged. I think it made something like the Tech Equity Working Group – where organizations and individuals within those organizations could compare notes on their work – even more important. I think in 2024, another goal will be to provide some context on how organizations can message about being inclusive while being confident from a legal context.
IVCA: Within your personal journey as a social and economic representative for equity, what key moment on that path was defining for you, and how do you apply it to your work with GET CITIES?
Ramel: My career has been fortunately filled with a mix of strong men and women as past supervisors and later mentors. I really feel strongly that some of the best advising I have received on my professional journey has come through a “kitchen table” of these mentors. Some of them have even been strong career sponsors, advocating for me with peers to have me hired or be promoted.
As I have worked at GET CITIES, I have met many professionals who have not yet had that experience- it has made me realize how we need to support diverse individuals as they rise through the ranks not only at their company but in finding networks outside of their companies to seek mentors, sponsors and allies.
IVCA: What does GET CITIES hope to achieve in their interaction with the VC/PE community within the IVCA?
Ramel: GET CITIES really appreciates working with IVCA to broaden our reach and advocacy around diverse investors past Chicago and through Illinois. I think we also see a lot of potential of LP outreach to socialize further investment with diverse GPs.
For more information about GET CITIES, click https://www.getcities.org/