Breaking the glass ceiling

By Kharii McMillan

According to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, women make up just 24 percent of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers. To address this issue, DCCC hosted their first Women in Technology Career Panel on Nov. 17, in the auditorium of the STEM building on Marple Campus.

The panel and networking event was organized by Sandy Gera, the director of the New Choices Career Development Program, and Ann-Marie Smith, a professor of computing science at the college.

More than 40 students came to see keynote speaker, Karen Neal, the vice president for development at Elllucian, as well as four other panelists speaking on their own experiences working in a maledominated field.

Their goal was to encourage more women to pursue a career in the technology field, since jobs like programming, software development, and technicians are held by male graduates at an almost 2-to-1 ratio compared to female graduates, according to a 2013 study by the American Community Survey Reports.

“What we are working towards is for women not to get discouraged by being in a maledominated field,” Neal said.

The event began with Neal giving an address to the audience about her 15 plus years of experience in software development, and how she managed to stay motivated in an industry that can be difficult to prosper in.

“Change is the norm,” Neal said. “Nothing stays the same in technology, which is why it is such a rewarding field to pursue.”

After Neal’s keynote address, student moderator Manish Dube, a computer science major, asked the other panelists questions pertaining to their career and experiences in the technology field.

The other panelists included Nicci Townsend, Manager of Client Technology at Evolve IP; Katie Scott, Enterprise Client Technology Advisor at Evolve IP; Catherine Dignazio, Engineering and Robotics Instructor at Technical College High School, Pennocks’ Bridge Campus; and Karen McConnell, Electric Design Automation Manager at Northrop Grumman.

To drive change in the industry, McConnell stressed that being outspoken is important when it comes to getting new ideas across.

“Never pass on that ‘aha’ moment,” McConnell said. “If you think that you have come up with a solution for a prob- lem, or have a great new idea, make your voice heard as soon as it comes to you.”

According to Townsend, increased confidence by women approaching technology field will lead to an increase in participation, and that exposing women to the field earlier in their academic career will help that cause.

Increasing awareness for women in the technology field was a common theme of the event, with the panelists and several audience members stating that the collective effort of men and women together will help the growth of women in technology.

Daniel Kec, the Infrastructure Project Manager at Razor Tech, mentioned that the persistency and innovation of women in management positions in the technology field can play a major role in encouraging women to invest in the technology field at a younger age.

“The number of women tackling tech issues in highend positions can provide strong role models for younger women to look up to,” Kec said.

Dresden Shumaker, president of the Women in STEM Club, mentioned that the environment of the career panel was very beneficial and encouraged the women in attendance to share their experiences. “I love the idea of connecting through technology, and I loved the vulnerability of the panel speakers when it came to sharing their experiences working in a male-dominated environment,” Dresden said.

Because the constantly changing field of technology is now trending into virtualization, wearable technology, and more efficient communication between providers and consumers, Neal believes that the opportunity for women to advance in the field is the best it has ever been, and will only continue to increase.

“The most important thing for a young, aspiring woman in technology is to never close herself out of a great opportunity,” Neal said.

Contact Kharii McMillan at communitarian@mail.dccc. edu