Kayte Malik, Founder and CEO of Dresscode Tech, fuses fashion with technology to help educate young women about coding and computer science.
According to a study by the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), women occupy 47 percent of all U.S. jobs but only occupy 24 percent of all STEM jobs. That shouldn’t come as a surprise -- after all, many young women have been taught to view STEM as a career field that can only be occupied by men. As a student, Kayte Malik experienced first-hand how young women often received little to no support in the tech industry.
“I majored in computer science and I was just one of two women in the program. I didn’t feel like there was a support system for women, and I fell behind very quickly because a lot of my male counterparts had already had exposure to basic programing skills."
Malik ended up switching majors to Business Information Systems, but kept her passion for computer science as spent most of her early career in corporate technology consulting roles. Since then, she’s taught herself different programming languages. Malik quickly realized that jobs were growing more and more tech-centric. That’s when she came up with the idea for Dresscode Tech.
“I want to expose more women and girls to technology, and that means I have to get them excited about the tech industry. At Dresscode Tech, we’re leveraging fashion, which is something most women are already passionate about, as a way to get them interested in technology.”
Although fashion and tech may seem like an odd mix, Malik makes it work by creating engaging products like her coding bracelets. These unique bracelets have binary codes etched into them and wearers can use their codes to access a special coding lesson on Dresscode Tech’s website.
“Each bracelet comes with a coding lesson that runs 30 to 50 minutes. They also have empowering messages on them that say, ‘I am brave’ or ‘I am bold.’ At Dresscode, we’re really big on our philosophy -- that there is beauty in technology and innovation, and these bracelets really help us share that message.”
Malik’s coding bracelet was one of five products selected for display at UNIQLO’s Michigan Avenue flagship store during a three-month partnership between the global fashion retailer and 1871. Six months after launching Dresscode Tech, Malik is ready to expand that message to a wider audience. After following the WiSTEM program over the last few years, she decided that it was time for her to join its network of nearly 3,000 women in tech and entrepreneurship and grow her company. For Malik, whose entire business is focused on exposing more women and girls to computer science and STEM, WiSTEM was a perfect fit.
“What drew me to WiSTEM was its name recognition, and I also knew that it would give me the ability to grow and network really quickly. I wanted to learn from like-minded people and women who had done this before, and I knew that I would find that community here.”
While Malik credits WiSTEM for helping her on her entrepreneurial journey, she also has years of experience across many different roles that she leverages to run her business. Prior to starting Dresscode Tech she held strategy, technology, product development, consulting and marketing roles (just to name a few), it’s fair to say that Malik has worn many hats throughout her professional career. And while Malik has learned plenty of valuable lessons along the way, the one that she wants to share with other women entrepreneurs is this: do what scares you.
“I think females in business internalize a lot and start overthinking about the ‘what-ifs.’ You want to be rational about your decisions, but you have to be brave. If you are afraid to make a phone call because you don’t know how it’ll turn out, make the phone call anyway -- what’s the worst thing that can happen? If you can’t have those tough conversations with your trusted team, how are you going to make your company better? You have to do some things that make you uncomfortable. You have to have courage.”
And with Dresscode Tech’s inspiring fusion of tech and fashion, it’s likely that we’ll see more young women take one fearless step after another into one of the nation’s fastest-growing industries.