By Melissa Hart
Throughout her 30+ year career, Sandra Ashworth has made it her mission to help other women in business, a passion she continues to champion.
A pioneer of sorts in what’s still a male-dominated field, Ashworth started in technology right out of high school, majoring in computer science in college. From there, her career literally has taken her around the world, especially in the past 18 years serving as Global Director Channels, Solutions, and Warranty at Unisys.
With her own experiences mentoring several people over the years, Ashworth is dedicated to changing the ratios of women in IT, and admits that, while there have been gains, a lot of work remains.
“There are more women in IT than there’s ever been in history. But at the same time, there’s more people working in IT, which means we’re still at the same percentage,” she said, pausing before going into the good news. “However, there are more women executives than there have ever been. Seeing more women in C-level positions, I think that speaks volumes.”
To help address the problems women face breaking into IT, Ashworth worked with others to launch CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT (AWIT) community and served as the chair for the first two years (and continues as part of the executive council.) She emphasizes that the AWIT network is designed to help women at any phase in their careers, whether they are just starting out or making a total career change. By being part of AWIT, women attain access to webinars and white papers, can keep current on changes in the industry and, most important, can tap into a knowledge base of women at different career stages.
Ashworth believes the key to future success starts with school-age girls, to break down the stereotypes around STEM education. She cites events like STEMapalooza (she’s speaking at a similar event for NYC Girl Scouts in October) as important for exposing teens to real-life professionals working in IT fields. She’s been impressed by the level of questions she’s received from young participants and their parents, which shows having parental interest and involvement is important for teens’ success in STEM.
There are many other ways for teen girls to get involved with STEM learning, and Ashworth shared a few ideas:
- Keep up with technology, listen/watch/read, take some basic programming courses and start exploring.
- Find a woman in IT to mentor you, someone you trust, who can help you get a roadmap of where you want to go.
- Be flexible and willing to change career paths, as the field is rapidly evolving.
Her last piece of advice? Go with your calling: “No matter what you do, be passionate about it. You’ve got to enjoy it. If not, then don’t do it.”
Melissa Hart is an entrepreneur, writer and technologist living and working in upstate New York.