women in tech

Women leaders in tech are changing the status quo

AITP October Event

The need for technology is ever-growing today. With these higher needs comes the call for more leadership. And in the workforce, women are stepping up.

At the 8th Annual Women Leaders in Technology (WLiT) forum hosted by AITP Atlanta this past October, this very topic was covered. The panel, consisting of a variety of skill sets and experiences, generated very meaningful conversations on this topic. But before I cover the highlights, let’s take a look at the panel.

The moderator for this event was Dr. Georgette Fraser-Moore, President & CEO of Transformation Lead, LLC. The remaining panel consisted of Sudanese Spence, Technology Director from Southern Company, Mary Hooper, Senior Director over Digital Strategy & Innovation at Synovus, and Chalcy Raja, Chief Technology Officer for Impact Capital Funds. Here were the highlights from the conversation.

Breaking into the tech field

Each member discussed how they entered the tech field and how they developed a passion for it. For each member, all but Georgette started in a different field.

“I was in musical theatre initially. I wanted to focus on how I can better communicate with people,” said Mary. For Sudanese, her origin story was not too different. “I didn’t find IT until a 5-year scholarship was awarded in college. My passion didn’t develop until I joined a security team as a technologist,” she added. And for Chalcy, she too found IT later in her studies. “IT was introduced to me in my third year in engineering. I wanted to work for NASA, but my friend, who was a Mechanical Engineer, introduced me to IT,” she said.

For each one of these technological leaders, the stories all had similar origins. Their fields of study all differed from technology, with the exception being Georgette. But the passion was developed through the human connection.

A tough road to leadership

The narrative quickly changed to more than just connecting people. For each member, the road to becoming technology leaders was not an easy one. Hurdles based on their gender, race and background all came into play.

“I came from a power company and was the only woman on the technological team,” Mary said. For Sudanese, a similar story with an emphasis on her race and gender. Dr. Moore had “blinders on to the reality that I was the only woman.” And for Chalcy, she wasn’t respected. “I was in a class of 50 and had to give an assignment. Out of those 50, only two women came up to me for help,” she said.

How the environment is changing

It seems like it already is changing. Sudanese reported a rise in not just women in the workplace, but women leaders. More so, women leaders in the tech industry. She added, “opportunity has been abundant in education, certifications and more in recent years.” This is due to the increased desire for diversity in both leadership & management roles.

“It was never a question of ‘we can’t do it’ more that we shouldn’t do it,” said Mary. “By educating and introducing younger women to technology, you create a tide. All boats rise with the tide, you just have to get it moving.”

This idea was further reinforced by other members of the panel. “You must create opportunities for them. Be honest, and if possible, be a mentor to them,” Sudanese added. And Chalcy believes that “you have to talk to them, find out what they can do, and make them feel comfortable too.”

Advice to the next generation

Though there is more work to be done, women don’t have to compromise everything just to get through. Each member was asked what they would tell their younger self. The overwhelming response from all members was to pursue their other passions simultaneously.

“I wanted to be a mom and technology expert,” said Mary. “This is achievable when you give yourself a break.” Chalcy shared a similar passion; “it’s okay to stop working if your focus is on other passions. I wanted a family, and I came back stronger.” And for Sudanese, she got to do both careers she loved; “I’m also a wardrobe stylist. You don’t have to be dedicated to just one field, you can merge them and still be successful.”

It’s safe to say, women leaders are making an impact today. This panel brought forth perspectives that show a positive change in the technological workforce. Their actions have challenged the status quo while generating increased awareness of these issues. And though there is more work to be done, these women leaders are heading in the right direction.

 

About the author

Sofia Krasny serves as a Sr. Account Executive for Synergis Creative, focusing her efforts on building digital, balanced teams within large enterprise environments. For the past seven years, she’s been serving the needs of Fortune 100 companies by carefully matching talented UX and digital product talent to full-time, contract or project positions. She’s a thought leader in the User Experience community and helping companies evaluate their balance teams as they are going through digital transformations. Sofia earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. A north Atlanta native, Sofia enjoys spending time with her husband, Max, and being a mom to her 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, and her two dogs, Money Penny and Charlie.