The Center of Excellence for Women & Technology will kick off its ninth annual Summit on Women & Technology on March 4 with speakers, free headshots and other events. Most of the summit’s in-person events will be in the Indiana Memorial Union, the center’s Executive Director Maureen Biggers said.
While previous summits only lasted about three days, this year’s summit will last most of March, Biggers said.
Biggers said she hopes stretching the program over the month will increase student engagement, especially for students who find it difficult to make time for extra events. There will be online and in-person activities to make the summit more accessible, Biggers said.
The summit is free and open to everyone who registers, Marketing and Communications Coordinator Kristin Londergan said. Attendees do not have to be a technology major.
“We believe every industry is a tech industry now,” Londergan said. “Tech is adjacent to every job and career there is out there, so really we’re here to empower and share skills that anyone can use no matter what their major.”
The beginning of the summit includes a Kickoff Celebration Banquet in President’s Hall that will include the presentation of an Outstanding Student Leadership Award. There will be speeches from TV host and producer Kari Byron and author and University of California, Los Angeles professor Safiya Noble, Londergan said. Byron is well known for her former position on the Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters” and Noble wrote a book on how search engine algorithms are biased against marginalized communities.
Other events on March 4 include a networking event and a free headshot session for students. Londergan said students can receive headshots for professional development and chair massages to hopefully relieve semester stress.
“One of our hopes is to both set students or faculty or staff up for career development, career skills, whatever they need to feel successful and empowered in their careers,” she said.
Students who attend the kickoff event also have a chance to win giveaways, including Apple AirPods and a Kindle, Londergan said.
There are various career and technology-related sessions for the summit throughout March, which focus on allyship, empowerment and skill building, Londergan said. These sessions feature student interns, faculty and the center’s corporate partners such as Adobe, W.W. Grainger and West Monroe.
Tara Aggarwal, an IU senior and one of the center’s student interns, said the summit has a newfound focus on artificial intelligence. As the center’s lead intern on the Ethical AI Student Alliance Team, she is helping to lead one of the Artificial Intelligence events called “Where’s Waldo? AI Edition!” on March 7.
Aggarwal said she hopes these AI-centered events and the rest of the summit will help empower people in technology, especially if they are not in a technology-based field.
“When we hear the word ‘technology,’ when we hear the word ‘artificial intelligence’ or ‘algorithm,’ we can sometimes have this bit of imposter syndrome or fear of, ‘What is that?’” she said.
With data breaches and algorithms of oppression circulating in technology, Aggarwal said it’s important for people of all backgrounds to be technically literate so they can contribute to conversations about technology such as AI and algorithms to make them more fair.
“What I want for people when they come to the summit, especially the AI events, is to walk away with not only the vocabulary to participate in those conversations, but the technical literacy to talk about those conversations, to make an impact in the way that’s going to matter most to them,” Aggarwal said.