Despite challenging weather conditions, hundreds of the best and brightest women in IT turned out in New York for the inaugural Women in IT Awards USA. Rocket’s own Jennifer Nelson made the short list for “Data Leader of the Year.” Jennifer’s contributions include helping to develop the data virtualization technology that helps many financial institutions, retailers, and other organizations unlock critical customer data and insights to provide more personalized service. While Jennifer didn’t win, she was in great company with a number of exceptional women who are disrupting society in positive ways with innovative use of technology.
While celebrating many of the accomplished women at the ceremony was the order of the night, the event also attempted to bring together the industry to tackle technology’s gender gap:
- Today just 25 percent of the IT sector comprises women – a number which has unfortunately declined in the past few years.
- Women also make up just 30 percent of students currently enrolled in computing courses – another figure that remains stubbornly low.
- 40% of CEOs in China are female (across all industries) while just 20% are female in the US
Diane Bryant, the Chief Operating Officer of Google Cloud, kicked off the evening’s festivities with a keynote on her own experiences, from her early days as an electrical engineering major at UC Davis to her ascent through the ranks at Intel where she spent more than 30 years. Diane emphasized the value of “sponsorships” vs. “mentoring” with the idea that a sponsorship entails much more proactive advocacy of a young professional’s career. For example, when Diane was still in the early stages of her career at Intel, only six women across the company were in the C-suite. The women formed an informal group, pledging to identify and sponsor other high-performing women until they also made it into the C-suite. This next set of women in turn committed to pulling up the next tier of women. The program was incredibly successful and Intel ultimately committed to spend $300 million in 2015 to achieve full representation of women and underrepresented minorities by 2020.
While there is clearly a long way to go in building a diverse and inclusive industry for all, let’s hope that this event helped spark positive discussions between the key stakeholders. And, there’s no doubt that the nominees wouldn’t be where they are without the support of – men! Many winners thanked their spouses or the men at their company who made it easy for them to achieve.
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