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Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
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Sheila McGee-Smith | May 08, 2018 |

 
   

Women in Tech: Stronger Than Ever in 2018

Women in Tech: Stronger Than Ever in 2018 Female and male professionals alike are rising to the challenge of creating a more equal workplace.

Female and male professionals alike are rising to the challenge of creating a more equal workplace.

I had the privilege of participating in not one, but two, Women in Tech events in the past couple of weeks, and in the process, I got to know 10 extraordinary women. First in Las Vegas at the Aspect Software Customer Experience event, and then in Nashville at Genesys CX18, I reveled in the "hopeful" aspect of women in tech, to borrow a word from Erin Leary's No Jitter post, Women in Tech -- the Good, the Bad, the Hopeful.

These events included women with children and some without, some with partners and others without. Many worked for global business brands (Aetna, Google, Ticketmaster, and the Lean In organization, to name a few) and two were founders of their own firms, myself included. Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials were represented, bringing perspective to how the journey of women in tech has changed over the decades spanning from the '70s to today.

What is probably most striking about the 10 of us as a group is that I don't think there was a single engineer. Instead, the group included a lawyer, a few MBAs and a marketing major, a computer science person, and more than a couple of liberal arts majors. The learning is that much as it is still important to encourage young women to continue to excel in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), advanced technical degrees are not prerequisites for a career in technology.

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At each event, panelists were asked to open the session by describing how they had "made it" to the stage, what path they had taken to be asked by the respective sponsors to represent what is estimated to be a relatively small percentage of the technology workforce. (According to data compiled by virtual event solutions company Evia, women make up less than 20% of U.S. tech jobs, even though they make up more than half of the U.S. workforce.)

The stories varied widely, often by generation. One woman started as a secretary in the 1970s, without a degree, to become president of an award-winning reseller of Genesys. Another Boomer, who started in technology in the 1980s, had a career strongly influenced by becoming a "trailing spouse" shortly after her marriage.

A Gen Xer talked about being the first in her family to earn a college degree, and then an MBA, while working full-time and being a single mom. Another Gen Xer talked about purposely declining advancement in order to be there at a critical juncture in the childhoods of her three children. Still another Gen Xer spoke of starting in the photocopy room at a long distance carrier at the age of 19, and rising to become the senior vice president of global contact center technology in less than 20 years.

Given the #MeToo zeitgeist, there is a growing interest by men in attending Women in Tech events. Both the Aspect and Genesys events had a measurable (~20%) proportion of male participants. It shows not just a willingness, but a proactive desire, by some men in technology to understand the issues with an eye towards improving communications with female co-workers.

No Jitter associate editor Michelle Burbick was in Nashville for the CX18 event and offers this Millennial attendee perspective on the Women in Tech luncheon: "As events such as the Genesys WIT lunch show, there's a role for everyone to play in engaging around women's issues -- regardless of generation or sex. In particular, the topic of mentorship seemed to resonate with the women, and men, in attendance -- whether they were looking for guidance or looking to guide -- which gave me hope for the future of women in technology. One thing seems sure: Only good can come from people coming together to engage in a dialog around women in technology, lift each other up, and carry each other forward."

At both events, during prep and de-briefing sessions, the hope was voiced that a Women in Tech panel might make its way to the main stage of a user conference instead of a lunch. Perhaps then we will see fewer male comments like this one to a tweet about the Genesys Women in Tech luncheon: "Finger sandwiches and watercress soup?"

Instead, we need to build on reactions like this one, received in an email from a male attendee: "I love supporting WIT! It's awesome getting to experience being a minority for even a short period. I have a team of 50% women and I want to get better at understanding what I don't understand!!"

If you'd like to share your story of being a woman in communications with No Jitter, email editor Beth Schultz.

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