Last year I was honored to be a member of the Women in Technology (WIT) Panel at the PASS Summit. This was a very big deal for me and one of the best experiences I have had at the Summit. My dear friend Jessica Moss was also on the panel. Jessica and I were asked to organize a WIT panel for IndyTechFest (http://www.sqlservercentral.com/blogs/kathi_kellenberger/archive/2010/05/23/indytechfest.aspx) last May. Jessica is a wonderful role model for the young women she meets. She definitely doesn’t meet any stereotypes that people may have about women in tech, unless those stereotypes are that women in tech are vibrant, attractive and intelligent young women.
I decided to attend some SQL Saturdays and to also organize WIT sessions at each one since IndyTechFest went so well. These events included some friends like 2010 PASSion award winner Wendy Pastrick, but also to meet for the first time some other women in technology. I’m now trying to figure out how many SQL Saturdays I’ll be able to attend next year, but I hope to be involved with more panels.
I am pretty sure that I have attended a WIT Luncheon every year that I have attended the PASS Summit. In the early days, the luncheon was really fun, but it was attended by only women. At some point, I joined the committee and even got to be the moderator one year. I’m not sure which year it was, but one year the board members were encouraged to attend the luncheon. I don’t think they even stayed the whole time. In my mind, this was the year that the luncheon began to become the wonderful event it is today. Now quite a few men attend the luncheon and are active participants as well. We almost had a male panelist this year, Tom Casey, but Tom was unable to make the event. I would like to see one of the male board members on the stage next year.
If you have read some of the things I have written about WIT, you will find that I don’t expect that the number of women in tech has to approach 50%. I really want to encourage anyone with the talent and desire to pursue a career in technology. I am encouraging my nieces and nephews right now. I guess that is easy, because my family has some sort of technology talent gene. We are a big family of computer and science enthusiasts.
Except for a couple of instances that I won’t elaborate on, I feel a ton of respect from the men at PASS. I believe that they are passionate about encouraging women in tech. I really can’t describe how great this feels. I know that there are women still struggling to get the respect that they deserve in their jobs and some who have put up with a lot of ignorant behavior, but I have always experienced the opposite. I am really lucky, perhaps.
So why should young women consider tech careers? For one thing, getting a computer to do what you want it to do feels pretty powerful. I was hooked the first time I saw some code for the TRS-80 about 30 years ago. I have enjoyed math my whole life and love solving puzzles. To me, writing computer code is just really fun.
Another great thing about tech careers is that you get to help people solve problems. It was very important to me when choosing a career as a teen that I do something that made a difference in the world. Unfortunately, I thought that healthcare was the only option. I now know that there are many careers that allow you to do good. I left my healthcare career in 1997 and have never looked back.
One more thing to consider is money. As mentioned in the WIT panel this year, technology generally pays well. There are also many options to work remotely and work flexible hours depending on the company. We can only hope that more companies realize how valuable women technologists are and make it easier for women (and men!) to balance work and family life.