On Monday, October 21, 2019, I attended a Women & Technology Conference held in Charleston, West Virginia. This was my first time attending this conference, which was launched in 2012 with support from the U.S. Economic Development Agency. I had previously felt, why limit exploring new and innovative pathways to education or incorporating new tools and practices to just women? I was suspicious of the gender-focus in the conference title—just as I might question a professional person described as a “female” representative of that field. Why is the gender qualification needed?
Five minutes into the Women & Technology 2019 conference, I got it. I understood the need to focus on the unique and growing role that women play in technology-focused careers, research, technology businesses, and STEM education. As the mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin, succinctly said it, “Women already successful in technology-related fields need to build the bench for future generations of women.”
Women helping women is important because statistics show that while women make up 56% of the individuals holding professional jobs in the U.S., only 25% of women hold jobs in IT fields.[i]
Anne Barth, Executive Director of TechConnectWV (https://techconnectwv.org) and founding organizer of the Women & Technology Conference explains that the goals of this conference are to, “[G]et more women involved in tech in West Virginia…improve the percentage of work force participation…help [women] get better paying jobs and help our students know that there are good careers with a variety of education attainment levels right here in West Virginia.”[ii]
So, what did I take away from this conference? Did my participation achieve one or more of the conference goals? Maybe not the conference goals, but I definitely achieved several personal goals by attending the 2019 Women in Technology Conference. That’s important because as a small business owner, I had to pay my own way to the conference—including registration, one night’s lodging, gasoline, and meals in route.
Here’s how I benefitted by participating in this conference.
- Made a positive connection with three teachers from a county in WV that I am not currently connected to and hope to build a relationship for field testing new curriculum materials and possible future collaborations
- Renewed my contact with the NASA Education Resource Center and hope to work collaboratively with them on the expanded design for their “sharable” hydroponics kit
- Learned about a statewide consortium just getting started that is looking for input from STEAM educators around the state for sharing best practices and instructional strategies
- Found out about sources for future funding opportunities and research exchange through the WV Science & Research group
Maybe all or none of these possible networking leads will pan out into real business opportunities for me, but I learned a lot about how to go about my work. That’s worth the investment.
[i] Lynkova, D., May 7, 2019. Women in Technology statistics: What’s new? Downloaded 22 Oct 2019 at: https://techjury.net/stats-about/women-in-technology/
[ii] Griffith, C., Oct 20, 2019. Charleston WV to host 6th WV Women & Technology conference. Downloaded 22 Oct 2019 at: https://www.wvnews.com/news/wvnews/charleston-wv-to-host-th-wv-women-technology-conference/article_a22fed89-9cef-579e-be09-907a5b1fd141.html