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Women in tech: a seat at the table

by Seth Deeren - Web Manager
Thu, Nov 21st 2019 01:00 pm
BWIT invited women working in technology fields as panelists to talk to students about careers in the field.
BWIT invited women working in technology fields as panelists to talk to students about careers in the field.

The field of technology is booming with new tech and a higher demand for people in associated fields. College students have a great opportunity in this field to get jobs, however, the majority of people in this field are men. 

The Brockport Women in Tech Club (BWIT) aims to address this issue. 

“We are an organization that celebrates Women in Technology,” BWIT vice president Anna Traughber wrote. “Women aren’t very common in technology — in fact, women only earn 18% of Computer Science bachelor’s degrees. Our goal is to increase this number and encourage more women to be part of the tech field. We do this by doing projects, going to conferences, and attending hackathons to get more experience and confidence.” 

In order to further achieve this goal, BWIT hosted its first ever Women in Tech panel discussion on Friday, Nov. 15. When asked about the inspiration behind the event, President of BWIT Kathleen Graham spoke on how it all began. 

“Professor Mitra made the suggestion to Brockport alumna and curent Software Engineer Manager at Paychex, Muldair Welch, who then reached out to me” Graham wrote. “Mainly, the idea is to increase the diversity among the tech field and give students the opportunity to network and become more inspired to be in the field of technology.”

There were seven women presenting at the event, Welch, an IT Recruiter for Paychex Lisa Lombardi, Cheryl Limer who works in the Science Technology Engineering Leadership Rotation (STELR) program at SRC Inc., Software Engineer at Kodak Alaris Jennifer Balasi, Tracelinks Software Engineer at Amelia McMullen, Tracelinks Quality Assurance Tester at Nathali Santana and Lauren Morehouse a systems engineer with the defense contractor at src. The moderator of the night was Director of Alumni engagement Kerri Gotham.

Panel members were asked about their experiences with various topics such as how they got into this field, what some struggles they faced in school and in the industry, some tips for those who are trying to get a job, what it was like finding a job in the beginning, what advice they would give to those who have imposter syndrome and more. 

Responses from the panel were informative and had a lot to say on each topic. 

Balasi said she started in the field after being a stay-at-home mom for several years, she enjoyed “tinkering” with computers so she ended up getting a degree and became a software engineer. 

Muldair said she always had a fascination with computers since she was very young, and when she was 11-years-old her parents got her a computer after discovering some of her abilities.

Many of the answers included parental inspiration to a general interest and a love of problem solving in the IT and software engineering business. 

As said by Welch, “businesses are starting to realize we are not just typing things on the computer, we are building things.” 

Welch also mentioned the importance of having passion projects to get started in the field and said in her younger years she wishes she had done more of that. She also mentioned that when hiring people she wants to see those passion projects to give them something to talk about and makes an interview more of a conversation than an interview and that is what she wants. 

There was mention of “don’t worry about being perfect.” One panelist said she was always a perfectionist throughout school. She needed to know everything and in her professional career she has had to get used to not knowing everything all the time. 

Going on to the topic of women in the workplace, a question was asked by a student in the audience about how men can support women in the workforce. 

The pannel agreed on the statement “when you see something say something if you see someone’s ideas getting taken or hear gossiping about a woman in the office say something about it.”

 There was mention that a man’s voice can also be powerful in these situations. There was talk about a double standard of women in leadership positions who, when directing and giving subordinates commands, may sound “b-----” but a man doing the same sounds like a good leader. 

One audience member who was an IT professional addressed the men in the audience about not talking about women who take maternity leave, saying “well enjoy your three months vacation” because it is not a vacation. She talked about the hardships of those three months taking care of a newborn and recovering from a pregnancy, not to mention the nine months of working pregnant. 

She also said men shouldn’t be ashamed if a company allows them to take 12 weeks off for paternity leave. Its an honorable thing to do to help their spouse through that time. 

This raised discussion about the misconception of “well maybe they don’t care so much about this job now that they have a baby” or “they probably won’t be as involved now” the audience member talked about how having a baby somehow can make you less. 

Overall, the panel had many stories of hard work and success as well as encouragement to the students in the audience seeking to follow in their footsteps. It also faced contemporary women’s issues in the workforce as well as what the student audience can do in the future to address them.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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