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AITP Atlanta Chapter Presents...
June 2017 Dinner Recap E-mail
Written by Steve Wright   

2017 Women in Technology Leadership Forum

AITP: Deep Insight from Atlanta's top Women Technology Leaders!

AITP Atlanta held it's 4th Annual Women Technology Leaders' Forum last Thursday with deep insight provided from some of Atlanta's top Women Technology Leaders. The discussion was moderated by CompTIA's SVP of Industry relations, Nancy Hammervik, who came prepared with thought provoking questions, and startling statistics from CompTIA's research studies. We were honored to host an esteemed panel comprised of Leslie Martin of CareerBuilder, Karen Baker of nThrive (formerly MedAssets and Sangeeta Anand of Fiserv. The panel shared their personal stories, career journeys and experience with our members and guests, leaving everyone ready to embark on a mission to help increase the number of women entering the technology sector!

Nancy HammervikNancy Hammervik kicked off the discussion with a personal story of her own sharing that, "Every company today, is a technology company to some degree." Nancy has family in who are farmers in upstate New York who are using Big Data to milk cows! They use the technology to determine which cows produce the best milk, where they are grazing, etc. The point to this was to share how prevalent technology is in every corner of our economy and how necessary it is to get more folks involved - especially women, given they make up ~51% of our population. With over 600,000 open IT positions in the US, we need women to enter this sector to fill this pipeline. Research and studies show that companies who have a higher percentage of women in these roles and at the management level run better. They recognize a high return for their organization, through women bringing a different dynamic and skills to the table, whether that be empathy, collaboration, and/or other emotions that absolutely contribute to a company's success.

Sharing some additional startling statistics, we learned that over 80% of women in technology who were asked if they loved their job, said yes. However, 56% of them abandon that job within 3 years or less, and that is twice that of their male counterparts. In addition, approximately 41% of women leave their career after 10 years, while only 17% of men do. There are a lot of reasons behind these statistics, but the most common of those reason was that they felt they no longer flt they could be creative in tehir role, and done have the opportunity to grow through management opportunities. There are - of course - other issues; family responsibilities, work/life balance, etc. However, another common thread was that they felt isolated as they rarely are surrounded by those who were like them. Nancy asked the panel, with the above in mind, what can we do to get women over that hump, and into career advancing positions and leadership roles.

Leslie Martin

Leslie Martin answered: There is a lot of effort at CareerBuilder to make it appealing for women to join their organization. One of the contributing factors to those stats can be contributed to deciding to have children, which can lead to them leaving their career. To account for that, CareerBuilder has created nursing rooms on every floor of their building. In essence they are making it a more feasible option for these women to come back to the work force. In addition to the nursing rooms, they have options for working remote and options for flexible hours, making it a much easier for them to choose to come back, or stay in their current roles. It's critical to do these things to encourage more women to come into this field. We also need to help people learn how to get caught up on the latest technologies. That's what needs to change. CareerBuilder started a program called "Bridge the Skills Gap." This program is specifically designed to help people coming back into the workforce, whether they are military personnel or stay at home parents. We need to give them the opportunity to get hands on experience in the latest technology. They have been running this program for 6 years. 80% of those participants were successfully able to secure positions within 6 months of completing the program!

Karen BakerThe panel was then asked what contributed most to their success, that they hadn't learned in their academic career. Karen Baker kicked off the topic. What really helped her at nThrive was a very high "Say : Do" ratio. By that she means, when she commits her and her team to a task with the functional leads, she manages to that and consistently delivers (without over promising or over committing her team.) This has helped Karen build a very high level of credibility with her executive team, giving them the confidence that Karen can deliver.

Sangeeta AnandFor Sangeeta Anand, that skill was more of an ingrained passion for creativity. She enjoys being free thinker. She's been in many situations where she's asked, "What can we do?" Instead of looking at a potential back and white answer, she approaches it by exploring what we think we can do, coming up with multiple options to complete the task. After discussing those options, she then takes the best "fluffy" concept, converting it into something more concrete, and driving it through to execution. This full cycle process - from ideation to completion - is where Sangeeta really shines.

Active Listening
For Leslie, this skill was one that everyone agreed was critical - Active Listening. This skill has grown with Leslie over the years. She was always the kid at the front of the class, on the edge of her seat taking in every word the teacher was sharing. Active listening sends a strong signal that your "getting it." The person your speaking with sees that you are engaged and interested, and that helps them open up more, sharing their thoughts in a more free flowing manner, creating stronger relationships, and garnering a deeper level of understanding to what the other person is looking to communicate.

The discussion ended on the critical topic of how we get young girls interested and involved in IT. Nancy cited a large research study that CompTIA did on the subject. They had asked girls aged 8 to 18, how many of you use tech daily. The response: 100% said yes. Next, they asked how many like technology. The response: 96% said yes. Then, how many have used your technical knowledge to help someone else? 92% responded yes. And here's where we fall off the cliff: How many of you would be interested in a career in technology: Only 10% responded yes! The study continued, asking the participants to draw what they thought an "IT person" looked like. What was most commonly sketched was no surprise - the geeky guy with thick glasses, and messy hair, slovenly - you get the picture! This portrayal is prevalent in so many aspects of culture, from Hollywood, to advertising as is demonstrated by the picture above from our friends at South Park! The #1 reason that this group was not interested in pursuing a career in technology is that they didn't know anyone in tech! In other words, when they don't know what that career actually means, the stereotypical image that's portrayed in all aspects of our society, is what comes into their minds - so of course, there wouldn't be interest.

The efforts that companies like CareerBuilder are doing are a solid step in the right direction, and something that all of corporate America should take a serious look at. But this also starts with us as individuals. We need to take an active role in encouraging and mentoring our next generations of leaders. If we can get the Technology Career Track to hire a new PR / Marketing firm to change the perception of the space, that would be great! Until then, it's our obligation to foster and encourage the youth of today to explore this fascinating and lucrative career path!

 

2017 WTLF Panel

 

Thank you again to our moderator and panelists for sharing your stories and experiences with our attendees. We're taking a month off in July, but will be back in August with our AITP Atlanta's inaugural golf tournament being held on August 19th at Fox Creek Golf Course in Smyrna. Of course, we're making major preparations for our premier event in September, the 11th annual CIO Roundtable - both of which you won't want to miss!!! Registration can be found on our home page at http://www.aitpatlanta.org.

Best - Steve

 

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