I was invited to live-blog for the Women In Technology (WIT) luncheon at the Summit on Tuesday. As was the case with all of my “live blogging,” I mostly updated Twitter with near-real-time updates, which I then attempt to transcribe into a blog post for later reference. So here follows that transcription.
11:49 AM PST
The room is filling up nicely! There’s a nice distribution of men and women in the room. This is great! I’m actually pleasantly surprised at the number of women at the Summit. If it weren’t for this luncheon, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed just how many SQL ladies there actually are.
12:00 PM PST
The WIT luncheon is underway! We start off with watching an energetic video displaying various types of women and men who each state “I am a technical woman” or “I support technical women.”
Rushabh Mehta, Executive VP of Finance for PASS, opens the WIT luncheon with the statement “PASS Supports Technical Women.” He then hands the floor over to Wendy Pastrick (@wendy_dance) for moderation of today’s panel.
Today’s panel is:
12:10 PM PST
Kathi starts off with a great message: “I want to encourage women to enter technology, but I want to encourage boys too.” She started off as a pharmacist because “I was probably born 5 years too early” but later switched to technology. She makes less money but enjoys it more. Her daughter had to learn HTML for school and actually helped her get her first work in IT by showing her how to program. “I want both boys and girls to have the opportunity to discover lots of different things and to find what they love. And hopefully that’ll be technology.”
12:17 PM PST
The floor is then handed over to Jessica Moss, BI guru extraordinaire. She gives a great example of how influential a father can be in a young girl’s life: her father was the one who got her interested in technology and who encouraged her career. She says she never felt like she could *not* be technical because she was raised to believe she could do anything. She ends with a challenge for everyone at the Summit: talk to just one young woman and encourage her interest in technology.
12:23 PM PST
Cathi Rodgveller shares her background in education and how she started IGNITE (Inspiring Girls Now In Technology Evolution). The goal of IGNITE is to excite young women, minority races, and low-income youth, about technology and about technical careers. Rodgveller gives us a powerful message: “You can have an impact in your community. One [positive technology] event can change a young girl’s life.”
12:28 PM PST
Last, but certainly not least, Lynn Langit takes the floor. She starts off with a challenge to all audience members: tweet or text one person to say “I’m a technical women” or “I support technical women.” The room gets active while people are busy typing or texting, and Twitter is abuzz with various tweets and retweets. Lynn then takes the floor back and talks about her background and about her charity work. She mentions that every time someone buys one of her books, a donation is made to the MONA foundation. Langit also shares some of her experiences as a technical women: “I’m a developer evangelist. I’m often the only woman in the room, and I’M the one giving the presentation.”
12:35 PM PST
It’s now time for Q&A with the audience. I’ve also invited members of the Twitter community to send in their questions or comments, and we’ll do our best to get them answered. Following is a brief summary of the questions and answers provided:
Q: First up is a father of 2 teenage girls. He wants to know why WIT programs have continued to fall since 1985.
A: WIT is a low priority for schools. Schools have so many other priorities, and not enough time or funding, to address everything they need to. We need intervention from outside sources to stimulate change and ensure it’s being addressed. Rodgveller is working with her state Senator to try to enact change on the national level.
Moss mentions that studies show the top 2 issues for WIT are recruitment and retention. She also points out that middle school years are very formative and important for young women to foster their interest in technology. Rodgveller interjects that even high school is not “too late” to inspire young women.
Q: Another father asks, how can he remove stereotypes for children?
A: Parents are the best resources, period. Parents need to support their children at home and to let them know that stereotypes are negative and not okay. This includes not just gender issues, but also issues of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
Q: Today’s youth are concerned about the technical job market in US because of the prevalence of off-shores outsourcing. Is it still a good idea for young people to join today’s technical workforce, and how can we encourage them?
A: There are still plenty of opportunities in IT. In fact, one of the hottest trends today in technology is BI. The best way to ensure that your job is not outsourced is to stay relevant and keep up with the newest technology; those are not the jobs that are outsourced overseas.
Q: In the South, there are still lots of stereotypes. For instance, women frequently are not hired by companies for technical positions. Comments like “We can’t hire a woman for that job because it’s too valuable; what if she gets pregnant?” are still made. What can be done about this?
A: One of the executives from CA, the sponsor of the WIT luncheon, takes the stage to answer. He says in no uncertain terms that, at his company, those individuals making the disparaging remarks would be terminated. He says that the type of attitude described has to come from the top down, and the company is limiting itself by not hiring women. He ends with a message for employees to not tolerate discrimination and to go to HR whenever they see it happening.
Q: What can parents do to help WIT?
A: Parents are the greatest resource kids have. Parents set the attitude for their kids; if your attitude is positive, it will encourage your daughter to try new things and will open her up to opportunity whenever it presents itself. Also, parents need to raise the issue with schools, i.e. through PTA meetings, to make them realize that it’s important to you and it’s important for your children.
Moss: “But at the end of the day, it is the parent’s responsibility to expose your children to as much technology and as many experiences as possible.”
Kellenberger: “It is up to the parents to break stereotypes, for jobs, gender, race, etc. It’s the parent’s attitude that makes the difference.”
So that’s all I have for the Women In Technology luncheon. There was a lot of great content and some very positive messages from our panel. For more information on this topic, please check out the following resources: