The Women In Tech Summit (WITS) kicked off its 10th year with its spring virtual summit in late March.
More than 700 people attended this three-day event. Participants took part in discussions about trending topics in technology, educational sessions for professional growth, networking opportunities, and even breaks for stretching and yoga.
A program of Creating IT Futures and CompTIA, WITS connects and educates women working on both the business and technical sides of the industry, from students to senior executives. It is believed to be the only technical conference with all women speakers.
A recent article from CIO magazine included WITS on its list of 20 not-to-be-missed conferences for people who support diversity and inclusion for women working in technology fields. CIO praised WITS for offering opportunities for women to network, build relationships, collaborate with peers and learn more about the latest in management and IT skills.
“We were thrilled with the turnout for this spring’s virtual summit,” said Gloria Bell, director of WITS. “Our goal has always been to offer women information and skills to help them thrive throughout their tech careers and to provide opportunities for lasting connections among women working in the business and technical roles in the tech industry. As demonstrated by the over 4,500 networking messages between summit participants within our event app and the attendees' active engagement in the Q&A with the speakers, WITS is creating the environment to help these women support one another as they grow in their careers.”
Trending technology topics discussed during the summit included cybersecurity, machine learning and artificial intelligence, digital health, and protecting organizational assets. And professional growth sessions covered topics such as career change, leadership, project management, and designing new professional opportunities in other parts of the world.
One professional growth session was moderated by Amy Cliett, director of TechGirlz, also a program of Creating IT Futures and CompTIA. During the discussion “My Responsibility to the Next Generation of Women in Tech and Life,” with guest Jenny Gray, senior director of application development at Power Home Remodeling, Cliett and Gray talked about the role women in tech play in helping to pave the way for the next generation.
One is encouraging young girls to embrace tech and let go of the stigma that keeps them from pursuing technology as an interest or career path. “I can’t tell you how much that (stigma) bothers me,” Gray said. “I wear it on my sleeve as a badge of honor. It’s something we should be pushing; it’s something we should be lifting up.”
Gray also discussed recruiting and advocating for women of color in tech. “We recruit people,” Gray said. “It’s an opportunity for us to actively look for women and women of diversity, to pull those women into technology so we can be much more representative of the community outside.”
“That’s what I owe women who are in technology. You have to make sure their voice is heard in a conversation,” Gray said. “We as leaders need to bring them up…and we need to hold men in leadership accountable.”
Cliett and Gray acknowledged that the pandemic has changed the way they manage their teams. From working remotely, encouraging a work/life balance, and even providing opportunities for virtual interaction, they shared tips they have used:
- Encouraging women to use the time they would have been commuting to do something for themselves, such as listening to podcasts, meditating or reading,
- Offering mental health services for employees,
- Providing virtual yoga sessions,
- Sponsoring a company-wide virtual talent show and after-hours trivia games, and
- Stressing the importance of shutting off the computer at the end of the day.
A recap of the summit is available here.
Profits from the WITS virtual summit benefit the non-profit TechGirlz and its ongoing mission to inspire middle school girls to explore all the possibilities of technology. TechGirlz provides free, fun and interactive TechShopz led by industry professionals, leaders and students.
The WITS fall virtual summit will take place Oct. 20-22 and tickets are available now. WITS also offers WITS Connect, a virtual meetup series. The next session will be April 22. Learn more about WITS Connect and register to attend.
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