Fun name, serious business: Digitini, Women in Tech at SXSWi
- 13 Comment
On Saturday, March 13, at SXSW Interactive 90 women gathered in the penthouse offices of PGi headquarters to honor women leaders of the technology world. A special event organized by “causemopolitan,” Sloane Berrent and I, the “Digitini” luncheon celebrated raconteur Cathy Brooks of Other Than That, Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li, CNN’s Jennifer Martin, Read Write Web’s Jolie O’Dell, Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg, Comcast’s Shauna Causey, Porter Novelli’s Stephanie Agresta and PGi’s Jackie Yeaney.
The concept for Digitini began as a way to showcase success and inspire the next generation of women leaders and evolved into an afternoon of gratitude for attendees. For me it was another wake up call of the severe shortage of women who actually fall under the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) category.
As we planned Digitini, the umbrella term “technology” included women who identified innovative ways to use existing technologies, report or blog about the industry in addition to traditional IT (and actual application of science in industry).
Why? Because men comprise 75 percent of the technology field and at SXSW Interactive its no different. We wanted to get as many women in the room as possible who contribute to the technology field in different (and sometimes unique) ways. Mission accomplished. So, what’s next?
First, why are women underrepresented? Dr. Rebecca Harding, Delta Economics, says one of the major reasons is, “ The ‘gendered nature’ of specific science disciplines which tend to be self-perpetuating and lead to a decline in participation as women progress up the professional ladder.”
Second, a single event will not change an entire industry. The first time a woman in tech won the ACM A.M. Turing Award (tech industry’s highest honor)? Not until 2007. Tech recruitment needs to begin with young women. It starts with events like Digitini—recognizing women to let them know their work is valued and then moving into action. Next time around, we can host an event and invite young women to meet with accomplished professionals and learn about technology career options.
Third, the majority of women who attended Digitini make their living from technology. I want to see more women inventing new technologies. Since The United States Department of Labor estimates that by 2016 there will be more than 1.5 million computer-related jobs available, the next generation of women in technology will have access to jobs that don’t even exist yet. This means opportunity!
Fourth, I still want to help raise the profile of current women in the technology field. The theme of the Digitini afternoon was to raise the profile of women in tech, whether through speaking opportunities, content contribution or mentoring one another. The majority of panels, interviews, speaking opportunities, etc feature men. I want to see (and contribute to) a continuing movement of women promoting women and raising the profile. I think we can do it.
This was my takeaway from SXSWi 2010.
NOTE: I’m not a “tech” woman; I use existing and emerging technologies as part of my career. I wish I had the brain bandwidth to invent something cool. At this stage in the game, it’s probably not going to happen.