My Take on the Fed Women In Technology Diversity and Inclusion Summit

IMG_1692I found the Fed Women In Technology (FedWIT) Diversity and Inclusion Summit to be encouraging and informative. It’s good to see organizations like the KC Fed, Million Women Mentors, STEMconnector, KC STEM Alliance and the Central Exchange lending their time, energy and voices towards supporting women, young and old, in the workplace, in universities and in high schools towards STEM professions.

They are encouraging relationship building through mentoring and sponsorships from the ground up. It’s  personal! This is how we build inclusive and diverse environments in which everyone: students, workers, mentors, mentees, peers and companies – wins.

It’s personal for me too. I had an aptitude for the sciences in high school. But I wasn’t into it, like I saw other students who actually liked science.

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KC’s DeLaSalle Charter school faculty and staff volunteer at the annual Pumpkin Patch that raises money and mentoring awareness.

My grandfather, a minister and college professor, pointed me to a small historically black college in Mississippi, Tougaloo College (TC). TC had a six week Physics Engineering and Physical Sciences summer program, that prepared students for college.

The environment was nurturing and supportive. I learned enough physics, chemistry and calculus fundamentals that I felt prepped for college.

I ended up having so much fun that summer, that I signed up to major in Physics! Going to TC helped to get me in the door of great summer jobs, an ivy-league exchange program, a masters program in electrical engineering and a research position in optical communications with a respected company.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know how to deal with all the other stuff that comes with being a professional, and after 10 years, I quit.

I took away the following from the FedWIT Summit:

  • Young girls score well in tech courses, in high school.
  • Challenged, they get their first low scores (D’s and F’s) in college.
  • Confidence shaken, many leave the sciences in college.
  • Those who graduate find they are underrepresented in industry.
  • Challenged professionally, they are shuttled to jobs that don’t promote and pay as well.
  • By the time they reach their 10th year, 50% quit.

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UMKC PhD student, Helen Gebre-Amlak gives a Data Security presentation.

Young women today are much more confident than I ever was. But it’s all relative. They have a lot more distractions now than I did. And learning to focus is something that is common across generations.

Focus leads to confidence. Confidence leads to more responsibility. Mentors and sponsors are confidence catalysts for young girls and women entering into technology.

There was some FedWIT “Rah, Rah!”, just like I hear when I attend Athena League VOX, Women in Computing and other networking events that specifically support women and young girls here in KC.

However, these events are not just for women!

Diversity offers an inclusive way to better engage the world. Mentor and sponsor relationships are work and are worth creating for a richly integrated career and life experience.

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High School Interns at an Athena League VOX meeting listen intently.

Do you mentor anyone?

Become a mentor to a young girl. Reach out and go the extra mile to bring diversity to the workplace and help embolden the women we see who are moving into STEM positions.

You’ll be challenged and you’ll be blessed by what you learn.

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