Women in Tech conference turned my doubt into confidence
After attending our Women in Tech conference, Carrie Stinson wrote this blog post. We’re extremely proud of the event and the response it generated. We hope you enjoy what she has to say.
“Turning doubt into confidence.” These words caught my attention. It was a headline announcing the inaugural Women in Tech conference, held at Hyland on October 8th.
I had just updated my resume and was contemplating a career change. The title caught my eye because “doubt” is a familiar feeling to me, despite being an IT professional for many years.
I have had a successful career developing applications for a global corporation. I have proven myself many times over. Why does this doubt persist? The words “turning doubt into confidence” spoke to me, so I signed up for the conference.
I am so glad that I did! It is clear that careful planning and strategy went into this event.
The four-hour conference included a “Choosing a Career in Computing” panel discussion, career advice and interviewing tips. Speakers included Hyland employees, Mel McGee, founder of We Can Code IT, and members of the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing (OCWiC).
Finding the right place
The first speaker was Brenda Kirk, senior vice president of Corporate Strategy and Product at Hyland. As Kirk began to speak, I realized I had come to the right place.
She spoke about the need for inclusion and diversity in tech. There will be 1.1 million job openings in IT by 2024, Kirk said. However, while 57 percent of women today are in professional occupations, only 25 percent are in IT, and just 17 percent are in leadership positions!
Next, Kirk presented a chart showing how the number of women in computing jobs has fallen over the past 20+ years. I was surprised by this. I thought the percentage would have increased over the last decade. Instead, I was startled to hear that many women have dropped out of tech during this time.
Why are we dropping out? Why are so many women not entering tech in the first place?
My career has been a rewarding experience. Yet, at times IT has seemed like a club that I’m allowed to visit, but not necessarily join. Often, I have been the only female developer on a team.
At times I have felt alone and have lately been considering “dropping out” myself.
Where doubt comes from
Then, I realized why. Kirk mentioned a recent Wall Street Journal article by John Grayhouse, in which he encouraged women to use their initials online while attempting to break into tech. (He later posted an apology on Twitter.)
Why is there a persistent gender bias, particularly in computer and mathematical occupations?
Then, McGee presented slides on the history of women in computing. She also showed a 30-year-old commercial for the Apple II home computer. It opens with a boy running to catch the school bus. Brian wants to be an Astronaut (today, at least). His first “giant” step is learning to use an Apple.
Cut to a classroom with a computer at each desk. Brian is seated next to a girl, and when she isn’t looking, he reaches over and presses a key on her keyboard (Delete? Escape?). She is irritated, but then looks down in defeat.
The ad finishes by letting us know about all of the subjects the Apple II can teach. Whatever Brian wants to be when he grows up, an Apple home computer will help him achieve it!
That’s great. But what about the girl?
A few years after the Apple ad ran, I was in a computer basics class. My first project was to draw and paint a picture, through commands. I worked on it for weeks. It was so good, I really surprised myself.
Later, our teacher instructed us to format our floppy disks so we could use their other sides. Well, I formatted mine alright – both sides! My painting was gone in a flash! Here’s the worst part. My teacher walked over and laughed at me.
“You were getting an A in here,” he said. “But now I have to give you a C!”
I was crushed. I didn’t want to look at a computer for years.
This long-buried memory surfaced as I watched the Apple commercial. I wondered about the other women in the room.
I wanted to ask the group, do you have similar stories? Have you ever felt dismissed when speaking up and sharing an idea? Have you ever stopped yourself from speaking, out of fear of being wrong, or worse, seeming like a “know it all”?
Throughout the afternoon, speakers emphasized the importance of finding a mentor. They talked about community outreach efforts and teaching young people to code. I began to feel empowered.
What if I could share my knowledge and experience with others? If I ever have the opportunity to be a mentor, I would do all that I could to encourage others on their journeys.
I pondered this as the women from OCWiC took to the stage to speak about their research projects and their upcoming conference in February 2017. Their excitement about computers was contagious. It reminded me of how much fun it is to work in IT.
By the end of the conference, I felt a renewed excitement about coding and solving technical puzzles. I could feel my old doubts dissolving. The “Women in Tech” conference really did help to turn my doubt into confidence. I strongly encourage you to sign up for the next one!
This is such an exciting time to be in tech. I am not “dropping out”!