When I was a brand new mother, at the urging of a neighbor I attended a support group for new moms. I wanted to to connect with other women and keep my brain challenged now that I was staying home full time. And while I know a lot of friends who thrived in those groups, I never went back. After over an hour of talking about baby clothes and the new toys at Wal-Mart and whether we really liked another new member’s haircut, my eyes were glazing over. Not only was I sleep-deprived to begin with, there just wasn’t a connection between me and any of the women there.
So when I was invited to my first Women in Technology breakfast, I attended with more than a bit of trepidation and reservation. I was a new entrepreneur, overwhelmed with the responsibilities of serving as COO, CEO, CAO and every other position available in my one-woman-tech-band. I didn’t have time to waste, not even if it included breakfast.
That was almost two years ago. Today I look forward to those once-a-month breakfasts with pleasure. Sure, we chat about the things like our kids and vacations and what we’re planning for dinner, but after that, we listen to lectures on topics like project management dashboards, entrepreneurship, strategic management strategies, and how to raise money for educational STEM scholarships for high school girls. We organize events to encourage women to explore tech fields and to recognize women in our community who are making significant contributions to technology. But mostly we reach out to each other and find ways to support the efforts of our peers. And between us, there is a gold mine of shared knowledge that allows all of us to be better equipped to handle the challenges of our careers.
The first time I attended, there were maybe seven or eight women present. This past week’s breakfast had well over twenty-five women in attendance. Among us was the IT Director for the biggest public school in our state, a PhD, an engineer, web developers, entrepreneurs, and educators. Cell phones rang with urgent business calls, women arrived late and left early to meet other work demands in their schedule. But all were there to draw support and camaraderie from the women around them.
And you know what I find most amazing about these women? Not one of them complains about being a woman in technology. Sure, they’ve all faced the challenges of entering male-dominated fields, including me. I well remember walking into an investor meeting only to be asked why I didn’t have at least one token male on staff. But the challenges, the discrepancies are not what define us. We love what we do, and by quietly and passionately supporting each other, we’re making strides to open doors for other women in technology.
One breakfast at a time.