Women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs, even though they make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, according to Evia. Though, encouragement of girls in STEM and women in technology is growing. Here in Colorado, the community of women who contribute to the technology workforce is vibrant and mighty. For the past eight years, CTA has hosted an annual Women in Tech Conference with the goal to engage meaningful discourse on thought leadership, innovation, opportunities and challenges surrounding women in today’s tech workforce. This year, four of my women colleagues and I made the effort to join the more than 600 women who attended the conference at the beautiful Spruce Mountain Ranch. With Conga’s annual professional development stipend, we were able to cover the cost of attendance. For me, the experience brought up some reminders about how to find fulfillment and success in my career. Here are a few applicable to both women and men in tech:
Why We Choose Careers in Tech
Some of the women I met merely fell into the technology space, like I did. Others have been rebuilding computers since middle school. But no matter how we got here, we’re all passionate about our companies and the cultures we’re building. At Conga, we encourage a culture around a core belief: growth equals opportunity. When I think about why I’m excited to go to work every morning, a big part of that eagerness can be attributed to our fast-paced, challenging work that is ever-changing. Work like that is not only fun, but results in growth as well; and growth equals opportunity. Hearing other women’s stories was a good reminder to keep top of mind what I stand for; and as keynote speaker Nina Vaca, chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, said, “be crazy good at that.” I love that I have the opportunity at Conga to prove I’m crazy good at delivering quality work and making an impact (even small ones) on the individuals I encounter.
Surround Yourself with Others Who Celebrate Your Success
I was endlessly inspired by Nina’s keynote. One part in particular, however, really spoke to me: “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” I asked myself, am I surrounding myself with people who celebrate me at my best and worst, and who truly want to see me succeed? Am I working for a company that creates an equal playing field for women and men? Men have a great opportunity to be some of the biggest advocates for female advancement in the workplace—since more men typically sit in positions of leadership, they often have the power to make or break career advancements. Recently, I made a career shift here at Conga from a sales role to a more technical role, and my biggest advocates were my director and VP, who both happen to be men.
“Girls compete. Women empower.”
Sure, being a woman at a technology company can be especially challenging at times, but how am I doing my part to empower other women? Nina shared some ideas and quotes from other women to suggest how we can take a stance:
- “Get angry or get motivated.”
- “Life is unfair but it’s still good.” - Nina’s mom
- “When they go low, you go high.” - Michelle Obama
- “Confidence is the best outfit you can wear.”
- “I’m not asking you to put the advancement of women on your back; I’m asking you to do your part—big or small.”
- And finally: much of how we are perceived is how we define ourselves. Nina recommends thinking of three adjectives you want to be known for and then living by them every day.
Hopefully I’ve empowered you to think more about what your role might be in the movement to encourage women in tech. In the Denver area and looking to connect with other women in tech? Don’t wait until next year’s conference: the Denver Women in Tech meetup is a great place to start!