By Martha McConaghy, SHARE Vice President
For as long as I can remember, there has been a lack of representation for women in technology, especially in mainframes. Despite having a history that includes leaders such as Grace Hopper, women have typically been scarce. This is not an issue unique to mainframes or SHARE. Many companies and user groups have begun to acknowledge this as an area that needs improvement and are acting on it accordingly. It’s time we, as an association, help change the conversation.
As mentioned in the January Message from SHARE, this year at SHARE Phoenix we excited to introduce a new conference track: Women in IT. The sessions in Phoenix will be the start of a longer-term initiative to develop a more permanent community, similar to the zNextGen project.
Through networking opportunities, panel discussions, and sessions presented by women in the field, we hope to create an environment of mutual support among existing members and create opportunities that will ultimately welcome more women into SHARE.
There will always be ways to improve the SHARE experience, and the Women in IT track sets out to help do that. Below are a few things to look out for at SHARE Phoenix:
- Encouraging Women in IT lunch (Monday, March 11): This event will be a way to learn more about the initiative in a casual setting. The lunch will be sponsored by the Open Mainframe Project, which has started similar initiatives of its own. I look forward to the experience they bring to the table and any support they can lend as we chart this new path. Be sure to RSVP for this lunch when registering for the conference, as spots are limited.
- Women in IT: Shattering the Glass Ceiling (Tuesday, March 12): Luisa Martinez and Megan Hampton, software engineers at IBM, will share what motivates them, plateaus they’ve faced, and tips for how to push out of your comfort zone. There are lessons to be learned, whether you’re a woman in technology or simply interested in your own professional development.
- Facilitated Discussion: Women in IT Roundtable (Wednesday, March 13): The facilitated discussion will follow a speed networking format. Attendees will gather in groups and discuss questions from the facilitator at each table. After 10-15 minutes, attendees will move and start new conversations with new people. The session is a great way to shake things up after a few days of classroom-style presentations, and will be an engaging way to connect with peers.
- Women in IT: Organizing Meeting (Wednesday, March 13): The conversation doesn’t stop at Phoenix. We’ll host an informational meeting to share how you can help build this community, especially as we plan for SHARE Pittsburgh, taking place this summer.
- Women in IT Panel: Real World Experiences (Thursday, March 14): This panel session will feature women of varying tenures, as well as across different segments of the IT ecosystem (finance, academia, software, and commercial industry). Each woman will share their experiences in the field, and the panel will open up to a Q&A discussion session. Join us to hear a variety of perspectives, as well as to identify ways to help bring more women into the field.
Across the country, there is an effort to get more young people – women especially – interested in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects (known as STEM). By taking steps to create a place for women to explore the profession and make peer-to-peer connections, SHARE will increase the possibility of a more inclusive and diverse membership. As many of us look to ensure the future of our profession is in good hands, the answer, in part, lies in the strength of those we welcome into it. For those who can join us in Phoenix, I encourage you to attend at least one session. I am confident this will be the start of something new and exciting for all of us, and I thank those who have already begun to support this effort.
For more information on SHARE Phoenix (March 10-15) and Women in IT sessions, visit the SHARE Phoenix website. To hear more from Martha, listen to her recent interview with IBM Systems zTalk here.