It’s no secret that it can be hard to find women in high-tech fields or serving in IT leadership functions in higher ed. (I am proud that the first campus leadership profile I wrote for edCetera was of Susan Korzinek, Director of IT at Grand Valley State University!)
One common complaint is that women feel alone when they sign up for computer science classes or take on IT employment. They may be the only woman, and they may feel extremely out of place. These women need three things to help them stay in the education technology field and feel less singled out.
There are a few places women can go to connect with each other. CloudNOW is specifically focused on connecting women working in cloud computing. They have a mailing list and host meetups in conjunction with big conferences and in big cities.
The CIO Executive Council hosts an Executive Women in IT Community that connects female tech leaders across a variety of industries. They have a newsletter and LinkedIn community, and they also host gatherings at big IT conferences.
Women in Technology is another fellowship group that can help women feel part of a larger community.
If you need a humor break, the Only Girl in Tech Twitter account can be a lot of fun — and it has more than 5,000 followers, so you know there is definitely more than one woman in tech.
2. Examples of Success
CloudNOW recently released their annual list of the Top 10 Women in the Cloud. This list not only highlights cloud computing leaders, it also gives young women role models. They can look at these successful women, read how they advanced through their careers, and plan a career trajectory that eventually lands them in a leadership role.
Networking and fellowship opportunities are great, but there is nothing more motivating than a personal connection with a professional woman whose career you admire and who is taking time out of her schedule to provide you with support and guidance as you navigate your career. And this is where higher ed can really step in to help make these connections.
Mine your alumni association to find women working in technology who are willing to mentor current students. If the alums haven’t served as a mentor or mentee before, consider providing them with some guidance in how to build and maintain a successful mentor-mentee relationship.
Then connect these women with your female computer science students. This will work best if it is done by careful matching. Students’ academic advisers can take a lead role in connecting the right people together. Check in periodically to ensure that the mentoring relationship is progressing positively for both participants, but mainly stay out of their way.