STEM is a hot topic in the nation, especially concerning young women and minorities. Organizations like Women in Technology International are making progress for females, working to create networks for women in STEM fields.
This June 2-4, Women in Technology International is holding their annual Women Powering Technology Summit in Santa Clara, California. The Silicon Valley-based professional organization, designed to bring together executive women in technology, was founded in 1989 by Carolyn Leighton, an entrepreneur and founder of Criterion Research.
The organization grew out of Leighton’s disappointment with the lack of growth of women in leadership, the women’s groups she attended and the current negativity of feminism, and the disparate groups uniting women in “singular disciplines” like math and science. WITI’s first meeting was an overwhelming success, and from there the organization grew exponentially. Women’s rights pioneer Gloria Steinem spoke at their first conference.
The organization has grown relatively quickly within the past eight years, mostly through word-of-mouth, but also through partnerships that get the word out.
“[WITI] has been growing quite a bit. When we started in 1989, there weren’t a lot of organizations in the space. That, combined with the Dotcom boom in the ’90s, really grew [the organization],” says David Leighton, son of Carolyn Leighton and current president. David Leighton became involved after first working with Carolyn at Criterion Research and WITI’s early technology partnerships.
WITI now includes more working opportunities for members and outsourcing solutions for women’s networks at corporations like IBM and AT&T.
WITI currently counts 93 percent female members, with 41 percent executives and most working in IT, computers, software, and telecommunications. A majority are Caucasian, although there are relatively high levels of ethnically Asian (12 percent), African American (11 percent), and Hispanic (9 percent) members. Forty percent are making over $100,000.
The Summit this year will include roundtables, opportunities to meet colleagues, networking opportunities, lessons, and strategies. The first Summit was organized in 1995.
Silicon Valley executive and venture capitalist Heidi Roizen, original Apple marketer Guy Kawasaki, and others will speak. Insights will center on both technology and personal soft and leadership skills. Some of the Summit’s offerings include current trends and developments in technology, best practices for adopting social media networking tools, skills to being a good coach, and how big data works.
The event will also include the eighteenth annual WITI Hall of Fame Awards, honoring “key innovators in science and technology.” The Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 to congratulate women who have made inroads in the STEM fields and encouraging younger women. This year’s honorees include the aforementioned Heidi Rozen, Senior Vice President at AT&T Labs, Dr. Marian Croak, EVP QualComm Peggy Johnson, CIO of McKesson Corporation Lisa McVey, and IBM Technology Officer Laura Sanders.