It was pouring cats and dogs when I arrived at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield for the annual Women in Technology conference. The entire area was under a flood warning, but that did not stop hundreds of women from wading through puddles and mud to hear stories from some of the most inspiring female leaders in the IT industry.
As we all dried out our toes and sipped on hot drinks under a big open tent, our speakers shared the grim statistics:
Women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Men make up 91 percent of senior leadership in IT vs. women’s 9 percent.
The United States currently ranks 60th in women’s political empowerment, lagging far behind other countries.
The discussion did not linger on those depressing numbers. Instead, the conversation turned to, “What is our responsibility as women in the IT industry? How do we make a change?” We had animated talks about confronting the pay disparity between men and women on a day-to-day basis, challenging ourselves to become mentors and leaders for other women, and acknowledging any of our own preconceived ideas about a woman’s ability to lead, communicate and innovate.
Several guests who spoke at the event cited statistics that show women face an uphill battle from other women just as much as they do from men.
The other clear message was this: we must take responsibility for our career paths. We must continue to seek out opportunities even when the statistics are not in our favor. Many of the speakers noted how they themselves had to identify their career opportunity and pursue it vigorously. They did not settle for the position that was given, but reached for that which was uncomfortable, challenging, and beyond their assigned scope. And then, voila! Opportunities came knocking.
As I think about the generations of women yet to come, my own experience tells me they will succeed. It can be theirs, but equal parts self-awareness, self-motivation and societal change are needed to find the opportunities they deserve. I encourage all of us to get out there and start changing those statistics.