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Women in information technology need to be advocates for change

Are you a woman in a male-dominated IT career? Be a change agent through networking and presenting at conferences.

For women establishing careers in software testing, technology or STEM-related fields where men have traditionally...

dominated, it's important to realize they probably still dominate. As women in information technology, we need to advocate for change, while recognizing and embracing the diversity we can bring to our workplaces. And we need to become an advocate for change, not just in our own workplaces but also in our professions.

Early in my career, I was a member of a cross-functional project team with members and meetings from coast to coast. While at dinner with the team at a local California restaurant, a lady came by and congratulated me for being the only woman at a table with 17 men. That experience made me reflect on how I was advocating for women simply by participating in all team activities. But we need to go beyond recognition and work for change, especially in the areas of hiring, career advancement and salary equality.

Dominique DeGuzman, cloud services engineer at Twilio, Inc., is an example of a woman who is an advocate for change in her workplace. She founded a Diversity Improvement Council at her workplace not only to promote an inclusive culture, but also to focus on recruiting diverse employees. She has become a speaker at events to promote diversity and inclusion.

Saadia Nyzaffar, who wrote "I Told a Dude How Much I Made and It Changed My Life," is also an example of a woman who is an advocate for change. She started a "Women's Power Circle," which focuses on salary transparency and other issues that women face in the technology world.

Finally, women in information technology need to support, advocate for and mentor each other both in the workplace and in the professional community. One great way to do this is to present at industry conferences. It is not only a great way to network, but it gives us an opportunity to show our expertise. A great way to begin is through Fiona Charles and Anne-Marie Charette's "Speak Easy," a network that provides mentors to women interested in becoming conference speakers.

Next Steps

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This was last published in July 2015

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As a woman in IT, how have you been an advocate for change?
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When I was being offered a job in my current company, there wasn't any female employee. I accepted the job with the hope to stand out in men's crowd and bring more women workforce. Now after an year, we are 5 and hoping to outnumber men counterparts.
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Each year, myself and a small group of alumni visit the university that we graduated from to speak to a senior class of Computer Science students. While I'm uncomfortable speaking in front of groups, it's important to me to continue doing this each year, so long as I keep being invited back, in order to encourage all of the soon-to-be graduates, but in particular the females, and to talk about my own experiences.
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I completed a B.S. in Computer Science and now work on a software development team in a male dominated IT department. I'm the only woman on my team.

I completely agree with the author that simply putting yourself out there and participating in events is, in its own way, advocating for women in technology. I participate in many technology events, but am still too uncomfortable to speak in front of people. That's just not my thing. But I have enjoyed listening to both Fiona Charles and Anne-Marie Charette and it is very admirable that they are out there doing that.
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I participated in SpeakEasy and spoke at my first software testing conference this year. It was an amazing experience, and it left me feeling empowered to continue speaking and sharing my experiences with others. Thanks to SpeakEasy and the other speakers, that conference had great gender representation this year that really made the environment feel welcoming.
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