Take Action: #SWITCHONCWIT Summit Reflection

Morning presentation at SWITCH ON! (photo by Amanda Maglione)

Charlottesville Women in Tech (CWIT) held our inaugural SWITCH ON! Summit on November 9. The two-part conference was focused on participants igniting their professional tech network. The morning session was open to all community members to attend presentations on the status, needs, and accomplishments of women in tech. The afternoon session was set up as a women-only workshop experience focused on hands-on activities for augmenting professional network and career opportunities.

My big take away from the summit is that to keep forward momentum going on bridging the gender gap in tech, we all need to take action because there are still too many barriers and hurdles in the way of girls, women and other underrepresented minorities who choose this path. Because of the tight labor market and lack of a tech skilled workforce, communities who figure this out will enjoy a thriving tech sector and those who don’t will lose out big time.

Megan Healy, Virginia Chief Workforce Development Advisor at Office of Governor Ralph Northram, kicked off her talk, Women in Tech, Virginia, with a quiz. Did you know the most awarded bachelor’s degree in Virginia is in psychology and that the number one job that teenage girls want to be when they grow up is an actress (and boys want to be sports stars). Computer-related occupations are some of the fastest growing in Virginia and in our region we are hiring 1 person for every 5 tech-related job postings with an average of 48 days from posting to hire. Meanwhile, there are way more psychology majors than psychology-related job openings.

Megan’s Take Action List

  • Tech-based businesses and organizations need to offer more work-based learning opportunities to students.
  • Curriculum needs more alignment to business needs and workplace skills like ability to learn, emergent leadership, intellectual humility and expertise.
  • Pathways into tech careers need an update.

Pamela Norris, Executive Dean in the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science, shared about Encouraging Diversity through Communication of the Value of Science and Engineering. She has found that we should look at diversity as an ability because diverse teams outperform teams of “the best” most of the time by a substantial margin. The challenges of diversity: communication, trust and getting out one’s comfort zone require extra effort, but necessary to solve the big problems facing our world.

Pamela’s Take Action List

  • Tell people how your work makes a difference.
  • Change your bio.
  • Add a tag to your email signature line.
  • Use design or create instead of build.
  • Talk about the people you work with.
  • Review company or outreach materials — are the using effective messages?
“It’s widely acknowledged that most of the jobs to be disrupted by advanced technologies will be those held by women. Over 60% of the new jobs through 2020 will require skills that less than 20% of the current workforce possess. Without preemptive action, women not only will lose jobs to technological advancements, but will be left behind.” — Gwen Murphy, Support Women in Tech

So how did we get here? Gwen Murphy, Executive Director, KPMG Global Lead Business Technology Services, shared that culture is the number one reason why women leave the tech sector and that along the way, cultural messages both subtle and explicit cull away girls dreams or potential in technology.

Gwen’s Take Action List

  • Focus on pay equity and provide more transparency about pay balance.
  • Ensure your manager knows exactly what you want out of your career in terms of promotion.
  • Women in leadership roles take an active role in women’s careers.
  • Promote and create your own personal brand.
  • Organizations put programs in place to help women train for the future of work.
  • More men step up and work to understand how to help women’s careers
Afternoon participants at SWITCH ON! (photo by Amanda Maglione)

My Take Action To Do List:

  • I remember something Kai Morton said about diversity and inclusion at #GHC18. We are already diverse, inclusion is the key. I know this is an area I need to work on.
  • Education, as you might guess, is part of the solution, but it can also be part of the problem. For instance, Megan pointed out that all computer science education is not equal. There are programs that employers are wary of because students don’t know how to translate their education into the real world. I am excited to be tackling this problem head on through a collaboration with UVA Curry School of Education for K-8 computer science based on CS education work at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. More about that coming soon!
  • Help highlight concrete actions employers can take through CWIT and Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) like offering work-based learning for students, addressing pay equity and transparency and providing mentorship opportunities.
  • Work on my own personal branding.

What’s Your Take Action To Do List?