What do @TheWomenRising, @digitaldivas3, and #HITchicks have in common? They are some of the Twitter handles and hashtags that young women professionals in technology are using on social media to encourage more women to go into the field. I recently did a fireside chat with Kate Catlin, the organizer of Women Rising, and about 30 young women in downtown Detroit. It was the first in a new UpRising series where they invite in “high-powered women in technology” they want to learn from.
The questions covered a broad range of concerns, and not just about working in technology. We were scheduled for an hour but could easily have continued for several more. I answered their questions with advice and lessons from my own experience.
Some of their questions:
How did you get started in technology?
When technology was booming in the late 70’s, friends encouraged me to go into programming. I went to a technical school with a certificate program and learned to code in seven different languages. I got my first programming job as soon as I finished the program and started my IT career.
Did you have mentors early in your career? What should you look for in a mentor?
I didn’t. For me, mentors came much later in my career. You should look for someone who is at least several years ahead of you in a position that you aspire to. It should be someone that you see as a great role model. And someone who is willing to invest time in a mentoring relationship.
How do you help parents encourage their daughters that they can do anything?
That was a tough one to answer. It came natural for my husband and me when raising our daughters. Parents need to be open to all the possibilities for their children, nurturing and encouraging their interests whatever they may be.
How can you be assertive without being labeled the “b” word?
Don’t all women ask this question at some point? It’s OK for women to be assertive and ambitious. You can’t control how someone else may perceive that. Just be sure your style is respectful of others and not rude.
Is it possible to have it all?
That’s the other question all women with careers want to know. It’s all about choices. You can’t be all things to all people. Make the choices that are right for you at different times in your career to maintain the right personal and professional balance for you and your family.
I applaud women like Kate. And women like Jennifer Dennard who organizes monthly tweet chats using the #HITchicks hashtag. They invest their time and energy to bring women together when they are all trying to build their own careers. They are leveraging social media tools and reaching across all sorts of boundaries. It’s a new day with new tools and new methods.
And let’s not forget all those supportive men out there. When I tweeted about the fireside chat to promote it, @MenInTech_org retweeted it — their twitter profile says “empowering women in tech” — a supportive group!
Kate and the women in attendance thanked me for giving back — my time, my advice, and my stories. It was the most fun thing I did this week and would do it again.
Women of my generation came of age during the women’s movement. We owe it to these young women to encourage and support them. Let’s help them break down the many barriers that still unfortunately exist for women in the workplace. I told Jennifer I would host a tweet chat for #HITchicks this summer — guess it’s time to get that on the calendar.