There are many organizations and initiatives working to increase the number of women in Computer Science and other STEM fields. One local group, right here in Grand Rapids, is the Michigan Council of Women in Technology foundation (MCWT).
This year alone, they awarded $124,000 in scholarship money to 22 female students in Michigan so they can pursue higher education in technology fields.
In addition to their scholarships and other work, I get very excited about this group because of their bold vision: Make Michigan the #1 state for women in technology. This kind of thinking makes me certain that being a female software developer in West Michigan was a great career choice!
I recently attended CIO Executive Breakfast hosted by MCWT, which was a great time to network with women (and men!) in the local tech industry. Approximately 40 people attended from the Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Lansing areas.
Krischa Winright, Chief Information Officer at Priority Health, gave the keynote address for the event. One thing she stressed is the importance of the people who work together on a project and how much difference the team dynamics can make in performance.
She shared an example from Priority Health where one team achieved 300% the velocity of the other teams. She spoke with the Project Manager, who had noticed some team members had problems working together and another person had difficulty with conflict resolution. The manager helped these people to improve their skillsets, which enhanced their ability to work together productively.
When it comes to maintaining women in the technology field, one key aspect to focus on is mentoring. Many members of MCWT participate in the group’s mentorship program and are involved in mentorship programs through other societies or colleges.
However, there is one area we tend to overlook that Krischa highlighted, which is the women who work within our own companies. She left us all with the task to find a woman to mentor at our own companies, even on our own project team.
Other speakers at the breakfast included Cindy Warner, MCWT President from IBM, Kathleen D’Souza, a high school senior who received a scholarship from MCWT this year, and Jill Maiorano, Cisco Regional Manager. It was especially great to hear from Kathleen about her current experiences with programming and see her enthusiasm for learning more. She was very passionate about helping get (and keep) other young women in this field.
MCWT offers several programs and volunteer opportunities that target various groups of women or girls, all the way from early childhood through their retirement years. If you’re interested in becoming involved with MCWT, I encourage you to visit their website where you can find information on the their events and volunteer opportunities.