SHARE launched the Women in IT initiative at this year’s event in Phoenix, which SHARE Vice President Martha McConaghy previously introduced in the February message from SHARE. She explained that the track would develop a more permanent community for the women in the mainframe industry. Through panel sessions, networking opportunities, and more, SHARE welcomed women in the field, and going forward will continue to have activities that create an environment of mutual support among existing members. SHARE is confident that a collaborative networking environment enabling these women to share their experiences and technical expertise, as well as to help others excel, will foster greater interest in technology careers among more women.
Rosalind Radcliffe, an IBM Distinguished Engineer, says, “The key is to make women more visible, to show that we are here, just not in large enough numbers.” Many participants noted there were more women in attendance at SHARE Phoenix than there were at previous events, says Lisa Wood, chief marketing officer at VirtualZ Computing. She adds that many want the initiative to continue outside of SHARE’s semi-annual events, and they highlighted the momentum and impact women have had on the IT and mainframe space.
Jeanne Glass, founder and chief executive officer of VirtualZ Computing, says she was pleased to see the level of interest in the track at SHARE Phoenix and how full the room was. “It was inspiring to learn how quickly the event filled, and when capacity was expanded, it immediately filled again,” she adds.
Through sessions and networking, younger attendees were able to connect with more experienced professionals. “IT is all about the network you build to help you grow, develop, learn, get new opportunities, and learn from others’ prior experiences,” Radcliffe explains.
Career development, however, must start with the individual. Kellie Mathis, vice president of product development at Direct Systems Support, says, “I believe the Women in IT initiative can be successful in creating the openness we desire in job roles, creative career management, and compensation, but we need to define success to us as individuals, rather than feel we must navigate a prescribed road map. We need to be empowered to achieve our dreams and not be limited.”
SHARE’s Women in IT initiative, she adds, can grow beyond a networking session, with additional sessions on how to compete better for jobs, on what skills are under-represented in the job market, and on what women should do to develop those needed skills, as well as the best ways to stay up-to-date on technology changes. This content is needed to ensure the group provides women with the expertise and knowledge they need to move forward in their careers. “I want to be measured on my merit and selected for my qualities and value, rather than be the ‘token female,’” Mathis says.
Glass, whose firm is a woman-owned business, adds, “Women and men alike were vocal that they would like to see this effort grow.” Carla Flores, security specialist at Broadcom and member of SHARE’s Women in IT committee, concurs, stating that there were a number of male professionals who wanted to attend the Women in IT sessions. They told her that they were interested in learning how they could best facilitate the careers of their female colleagues and make them more successful. She recalled one who said, “As a male manager, I’d like to get a better understanding of the challenges women face and support them.”
Wood says that several men in attendance asked honest and tough questions to better understand women’s views and how they can support a more inclusive community. Glass adds that SHARE and IBM Systems Magazine also are working on a web series to help foster an ongoing discussion and build upon the community of women in IT. In addition, other businesses are taking up their own initiatives to help women become more visible and succeed in the industry.
Wood says, “The mainframe industry is the gold standard for technology and can also become the gold standard for respecting, empowering, and developing the community that makes it tick.”
Working together with men and women in the mainframe sector can create a more inclusive community for all SHARE delegates and beyond. Through this environment, individuals can flourish personally and professionally, which can help their businesses improve financially. New sessions already are in the planning stage for SHARE Pittsburgh. These will further build the Women in IT initiative, providing a forum for women to network and increase their visibility in the industry. SHARE delegates can look forward to more sessions and networking opportunities with their peers at this summer’s event in Pittsburgh.