Bit by Bit: Women Tech leaders inspire young women to think about tech careers

My life is so amazing and my technical education = earning power.  That’s I want girls to think about.”

Those are the powerful words of Trina Alexson, an engineer and vice-president of service delivery at Cisco Canada, on why she wrote her book Bit by Bit to inspire young women to choose careers in technology.  Together with co-author Mala Devlin, they saw an opportunity to give a voice to other women in tech careers as role models for their daughters, and their generation. Bit by Bit shares the stories of successful women with a variety of career paths in technology, and how their technology careers have been professionally and personally rewarding.

The book addresses one of the challenges for girls choosing tech:  the lack of female role models.  Boys and young men have lots of personal role models — family or friends in technical careers, that girls don’t yet have.   As well, in the popular media most of the technology leaders profiled are male.  Yes, it is changing with some highly visible women at the top like Marisa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, and many young people aspire to a great career that may or may not include the corner office. In Bit by Bit, readers are introduced to some amazing women who have pursued technology careers, the challenges they have faced and the impact they are having.

Inspiring young women to choose tech is one piece of the puzzle.  Encouraging, developing and celebrating the women who have chosen tech careers is another.  Talking about and raising awareness of the challenges to developing women’s careers and leadership in technology is important.  However, according to Alexson,  what’s even more needed in the tech sector is a critical mass of women – to network, support, mentor each other.

We need to be moving from diversity from “talking” to “doing”.  Not just programs and information, although they are important support to propel women in their careers, but moving women into senior roles.  For example at Cisco, there are three senior women in the C-suite:  Blair Christie, CMO; Padmasree Warrior, CTO and Rebecca Jacoby, CIO.  As Alexson says, their examples shows us  “Yes, it’s possible.”  And of course, the advancement of women in technology has to move beyond companies like Cisco, IBM, or Dell.

What to do contribute to a critical mass of women in tech?  “Women who are here have be a bit noisier!” says Alexson.  “We have to find ways to fit in & keep going.”

The CDN Women in the IT Channel Recognition Luncheon on August 21 celebrates and fulfils exactly what Trina says we need to do to raise awareness, to build that critical mass and propel women in their tech careers:

#1 — Be engaged in your career and be a success in taking on responsibility and achievement.

#2 — Support each other.

#3 — Reach out more broadly to encourage the pipeline of young women in industry.

At the Women in the IT Channel event, women who have taken on responsibilities and achievements will be celebrated, connections will be built and ways to encourage young women will be discussed.  Trina Alexson will be there leading a morning workshop on the Human Network Effect.

Whether you are male or female, if you want to help form the “critical mass of women in tech”, I suggest you join in the conversations at the Women in the IT Channel event.  See you there!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Cheryl Sylvester
Cheryl Sylvester
Cheryl Sylvester is a Leadership Coach, Brand Communications consultant and W100 Business Owner. A perpetual idea generator, entrepreneurship cheerleader, and wanna-be geek, her clients include Novell, PlateSpin, Mozilla, HP, Tenscores & Polar. She writes about Leadership, Communications, Entrepreneurship and Women in technology. Cheryl can be reached via email at [email protected]

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