Women In Tech: Where The Meaningful Work Is

By Christen McNamara

This girl loves a field trip. Even if it means coming back to a few busy days of catch up, it’s so inspiring to talk with and listen to the non I.T. world. Recently, I visited the beautiful campus of Southwestern Community College in Sylva, NC to meet some high school and community/technical college professors to discuss how to talk about women in tech with young women about their future careers.

It’s not something that I think about very often – our office is full of wonderful inspiring women, from technicians to managers. So, needless to say, coming from this environment, I was nervous that I wouldn’t have much to contribute or I wouldn’t get much out of it.

The questions began very simply: what do you do, why and how did you get to where you are. The all-female panel introduced themselves one by one, and each had a unique but similar story: tech was a new career – they were there to start over or, they came in late in the game. I found this fascinating, but we’ll save that for another post.

Southwestern Community College- Innovation Expo; Women in tech panel

As we got comfortable with one another, the panel switched roles and began asking the teachers questions and we became the listeners.

The teachers were STEM specific, teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and the conversation eventually led to them disclosing that they had many bright, wonderful female students but that they were being swayed to become nurses instead of going into tech and STEM fields.

It’s true, in rural Western North Carolina nurses can make good money, and there are lots of job opportunities. So, how do we as tech companies/small government compete to attract these smart young women?

We all say, we need women in tech, Meghan Biro says it’s a good thing to “De-Brogram the Culture.” (Forbes) But, how do we tell women they “need” technology?

I have nothing against nursing – many good friends have been career or second/third/fourth career nurses, and I value having smart compassionate people in this field.

But, I want to make the point that careers in Tech and I.T. are also meaningful; we help solve important problems. Everyday I use data to help people make better decisions, from mapping fire hydrants to complex analysis looking for parcels for affordable housing. Technology is everywhere and can be your ticket to fun, interesting and meaningful work. It’s academia, military, science, start-ups, small government – it can take you all over the world or be in your hand in the middle of nowhere.

It’s great to have the smartest people join your workplace, no matter their gender, so making sure young women know about tech careers may help steer some bright people our way. We need to reach out to women of all ages. Time to roll up our sleeves, we’ve got some work to do.

Originally published June 22, 2017