Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Introducing Global Tech Women: Are You a Technical Woman?

Technical Women are Leaving
It is a well known fact that there are not as many women in technology careers as men, and equally well documented that numbers are declining rather than increasing - unlike in most other science and engineering disciplines. The problem doesn't stop there - reliable data show that many women who complete a technical degree choose not to pursue a technical career. To cap it off, women in technical careers around the globe leave those careers at an alarming rate. The whole situation is completely crazy when you consider that lucrative computing jobs are increasing by leaps and bounds and many companies (not just in the US) have difficulty finding people to hire.

As many of you know, there are excellent organizations around the globe that have set their sights on addressing one aspect or another, one facet or another, of this incredibly complex problem. But...

I'm going to hazard a guess that many of you don't know about Global Tech Women. Global Tech Women (GTW for short here) is different. This organization, the brainchild of Deanna Kosaraju who you may know from her previous role as Vice President of Programs at the Anita Borg Institute, takes a holistic approach to the problem. In other words it is about the technology but it's not only about the technology. It's far more than that. As Deanna puts it, GTW wants to support technical women in becoming "connected, inspired and self-actualized".

This vision leads to a different approach than many other organizations, starting with an important definition:

What is a technical woman?

Answer: You get to decide. Yes, you.

If you self-identify as a technical woman, then you are a technical woman. Period. 

Why should someone else tell you if you "are" or "are not" technical?

Not everyone takes the same trajectory into a technical career. We know this, yet at the same time there are people who apply an exclusive "definition". i.e. you must have a technical degree, or you must work for an established big-name corporation or... If you don't, then you are excluded either explicitly or implicitly. When I write it out it sounds ludicrous to my ears, but some people/organizations will exclude from their definition, and hence exclude from support, someone, and often this means women, who take unconventional routes to achieving their technical and life goals. Global Tech Women starts from a position of inclusiveness and empowerment.

As Deanna pointed out in one of our recent conversations, technology can be truly interdisciplinary. Technology cuts across disciplines. For example, Deanna told me about a woman she met who has a graduate degree in Sociology and is now developing apps in a developing country. Here is the key take home point - this woman did not "leave" Sociology. She incorporates her training into her work as a technical woman helping people in Africa. There are a lot of women out there like her. Who is to tell them they aren't really technical?

If you choose to identify yourself as a technical woman, Global Tech Women wants to be there to support you in defining success for yourself, and in connecting you with resources to make that easier. GTW may be a fairly new organization but Deanna Kosaraju brings years of executive experience in the technology world and in non-profit organizational management to this endeavor. She has already established some impressive partnerships and more are in the wings; (see the GTW website); in addition she is in the process of forming a consortium of technical women's groups around the world to talk about best practices.

So - what can Global Tech Women do for you? I thought you might ask. In the next post, I'll dive more deeply into Global Tech Women's ongoing activities.

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