Women hold roughly 5 percent of all leadership roles in the technology sector. The Center of Excellence for Women in Technology aims to reverse this trend with its programs, such as the “Techie Women Have More . . . ” conference.
The conference, which took place Feb. 27-28, featured speakers, panels and breakout sessions for women in technology to explore different areas of the field, as well as build confidence in themselves and their work.
“Be confident when you’re the only woman in the room because that will probably be the case for a while in your tech careers,” said Robin Steis, IU alumna and director of federal sales at Interactive Intelligence. “We aren’t any dumber than the men. They just aren’t as afraid of failure, which is something we need to work on.”
Steis, along with three other women who graduated from IU and now work in the technology field without holding a degree in a related field, sat on the plenary panel during the conference.
The women spoke about their experiences as women in technology, providing career advice and answering questions asked by attendees.
“Technology majors are not the only people who are involved in technology with their career paths,” Steis said. “Having skills and networking in this field is crucial for everyone because tech is relevant in every sector in this age.”
The events planned for the first day of the conference were primarily geared toward faculty members and professionals, whereas the second day’s events were planned with IU students’ needs in mind.
Another flagship event at the conference included a career expo, where several companies, including Deloitte, University Information Technology Services and Progressive Insurance, set up information desks.
Representatives spoke about job opportunities and internships in their companies, both for the summer and upon graduation.
Several employers who were present at the career expo also presented their own workshops during the breakout session.
Their topics of discussion ranged from navigating an early career, developing a personal brand and advancing a career with continuing education.
Avis Yates Rivers, president and CEO of Technology Concepts Group International, gave a keynote speech at Alumni Hall, where she addressed the state of girls, women and technology.
Rivers gave her listeners advice on how to maneuver in a workforce that is predominantly white, Asian and male. She said bias, while typically unconscious, is not always unintentional. Although it is difficult to overcome these obstacles, there are several resources and strategies to succeed, she said.
CEWiT public relations intern and IU senior Sophie Babcock said her experiences with the organization have helped her expand potential job opportunities for the future.
“Even though I’m a journalism major, I’ve realized a lot of PR agencies have tech clients,” Babcock said. “I’m more confident, and I have done a lot of work in the technical side of things.”
Babcock has reached out to associations to spread the word about the organization’s work, marketed social media and acted as a spokesperson for CEWiT across campus.
She said her experience in working with women and technology has clarified several misconceptions about the field — for her and for those with whom she interacts.
“Women in technology are often misunderstood and underappreciated,” Babcock said. “We want to provide a support system, first and foremost, and give women the greatest opportunities to build skills in coding and web design because we know they can do it just as well as anyone else.”
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