Why it’s important Recent economic downturns and layoffs have severely impacted the IT sector. Paula Bratcher Ratliff, CEO of Women Impac Tech, claims that men are recovering more quickly than women.

What they’re saying is that “men who were recently laid off were able to land new jobs within 90 days,” according to Bratcher Ratliff.

“It has taken them almost twice as long as their female counterparts.”

According to Women Impact Tech, only 30% of Chicago’s tech workforce is female.

This percentage drops to 16% in management and leadership. It drops much lower, to 10%, in executive leadership.

The mystery: According to Bratcher Ratliff, gender bias is to blame for women’s slower return to the industry.

“When men make up about 75% of the tech workforce you’re going to have some bias in the interviewing process and in the hiring process. She also believes the key to bridging this gap is by helping women build their networks.

“Women have a tendency to not build large networks, because we do a lot of work-life balance; we’re really responsible for a lot more in the home than our male counterparts.”

“That’s what this conference is about. Network. Just one chance conversation with the right person can completely change your career trajectory.”

Her advice for tech firms? “Create benefits and programs, more flexibility in your scheduling.

“Because most women are now balancing child care or elderly parent care.”

What’s next: The conference kicks off at 8:30am and features women from companies including Microsoft and LinkedIn.