Lead and Grow – Women at Techweek 2012

This is a guest post from Amanda Yang – Media Statistics Specialist, and Michael Nadler – Supervisor, Media Data Analysis - at Cision.

As Elisa Miller-Out opened the “Chicago Tech Women Changing the World” presentation, she blasted Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and, with energy and fervor, inspired all the ladies (and even a few gentlemen in the audience) to get up and groove! It was an amusing respite from the seriousness of the presentations from earlier in that day at Chicago’s second annual Techweek.

The music brought us all together, and it allowed everyone to relax and get ready for a discussion on how women can connect and thrive in tech. Surprisingly, of the 2,500 participants at TechWeek, only 26% of participants were women, according to Techweek. Speakers discussed everything. Our Cision Media Database of Editors and Bloggers similarly reflects this statistic. We found that of our technology editors, only 29 percent were female. 

They spoke of how to get career advice and how to be thick skinned in a male dominated industry. Conversely, they spoke of intimate moments of their lives: building a start-up while pregnant, and maintaining a great relationship with their partners during 70 hour work weeks. It was both comforting and inspiring to see such success from this sharp group of leaders.

Here are a few tips from we can continue to build a sustainable community of Female Tech Leaders:

  • Join: Be active in your community. Yesenia Sotelo, Founder of SmartCause Digital, encouraged the audience to be flexible and to network with other women. Women in Technology: Chicago Chapter is a great place to start. Meet with women from throughout our community to learn how to balance work, family and personal life.
  • Teach: Time and time again, we see that we’re lacking female leadership and a female presence in the tech space. Jessica Trybus spoke of a Carnegie Mellon study that inspired girls at a young age to get involved with creating stories through programming animations, inspiring young girls to get excited about science and engineering. Another program discussed was the Pipeline Fellowship, which aligns young female investors and trains them to become angel investors, another area where the number of women are scarce.
  • Balance: Maia Liebman discussed the importance of balancing and managing a team. She stressed that working with a virtual team from home is a great way to balance a family life, especially when your children are young. She said “take advantage of working from home.”

In the end, the resounding theme of all of the presentations and personal conversations I had with women throughout the conference was to pay it forward to those younger than you. As ladies in technology, we need to support and nurture talent so that we can cultivate strong leaders for the future, and that’s something we can all feel good about.



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