Women In IT

STEM is Risky, Go For It.

“I go after problems that excite me. When I started this project, I didn’t know anything about black holes and honestly, it was a risky project. But my heart was in this project. I love this project, and I think that that’s what makes it a success. When you get really smart people together, who are super motivated by the problem that they’re working on, I think people will figure out the answers.”

– Katie Bowman 

Katie Bowman is one of the 200 scientists that collaborated to capture an image of light in a Black Hole. Seeing inside a black hole was an impossible feat until now and it was an international risk.  Despite the risk and not having previous knowledge of how black holes worked when she started on the project six years ago,  it was her algorithm that allowed scientists to capture the image that stunned the world.

I was overwhelmed with excitement and surprise when the image was finally revealed and upon learning of Katie’s contribution it took me down this rabbit hole of ideas circling around, what is next for women in STEM?  The STEM field is comprised of roughly 28% women and that needs to grow. Everyday a new IT firm or incredible invention, or  discovery such as this one occurs and the number of women doing it is slowly rising. The next generation is preparing for the overwhelming jobs that will be available in the STEM or STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics)  fields, but for now we need to push for retraining and education for women interested in this field.

In 2017, the International Visitor Leadership Program  also known as Hidden No More, brought together 48 women from around the world with “hidden talents” in STEM to go through workshops and networking opportunities to nurture their skills and create ideas that they could bring back to their respective countries. This idea came after the movie Hidden Figures premiered and sparked an interest in who else was “hidden” that could change the course of the STEM field.  We need to continue to do programs like this on the Federal, State, and Local levels to encourage the interest which will cultivate opportunities and provide growth for the country. If it is possible to create such an opportunity for 48 women, why not 100? Why not 1000?

Katie had an opportunity to put her skills to the test, challenge herself, and achieve what was once impossible at the age of 29. She joined the project without knowing anything about it and created an opportunity for herself to overcome a barrier as a woman, engineer, and scientist; ultimately, all she had was hope to rely on. That hope, while deeply rooted in extensive education, is what took us quite literally across the universe. Her algorithm was a risk, her speaking up was a risk, her attempt to make something happen without having all the information was a huge risk. But the risk gave us the reward and as women in IT and Science we have to risk it all if we’re going to make the next giant step for (wo)man kind. 

 

 

Her Code is Different: Women Growing an IT Business

Although over 12 million businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, they only make up 30% of the technology world as either employees or business owners. 13% of women owned companies have been in business for more than 20 years and 47% of women owned businesses are owned by women of color, and ARMA Inc. is one of them. The percentage of women that are not CEOs barely rise to 17% and of the 41 Fortune 500 tech companies only five are headed by women. However some of the smaller tech companies and start ups are flourishing and may just tip the scale by 2020.  This is a glimmer of promise for women in the tech field. Women cannot run a technology company like men do, and that is a wonderful attribute to have. Instead of taking a conquering approach, women are open to learn, regard their teams’ talents, and take calculated risks that will benefit the company’s growth. 

My Story

As a minority woman-owned small business the landscape for women in technology was nearly non-existent 30 years ago and although we have grown substantially we have a long way to go. In 1990 as a fresh Black face in IT I you didn’t see a lot of women that looked like me in the business  After being deciding to take the leap and start my owned business, leaving behind the security of a paycheck every two weeks, the idea of becoming an independent contractor was terrifying.  However, I took the risk and received my first $25k contract that bloomed into a successful business for the last 29 years.

In the beginning, I wish that I understood the importance of relationships and tribe building when it came to growing my business.  I thought it was far more important to keep your head down, work hard and always and I mean always focus on your customer. I worked hard to cultivate relationships with my clients, community, and my valued employees to expand successfully. I had to treat them as if they were a family member who deserved attention and regard for their needs and aspirations. However, the most important lesson was to let go of control. Which meant I could not be super woman all the time, I had to ask for help, be open, and transform opportunities into success.

THE WOMAN’S CODE

1.      Get a mentor: Women can have a lot of gumption but there is more to be learned about how to navigate the ever-changing landscape of Technology. Statistically women who receive mentoring from either a man or woman within their field were equally successful. Seek out someone who is where you want to be and be open to learn.

2.      Create a culture of learning and growth: Since technology rapidly evolves as a business owner you must be open to change, nurturing that change with intent studying, and using it to grow as an individual and company.

3.      Give back to your community: STEM/STEAM non-profit organizations are blooming, especially for women of color interested in IT. What better way to make an investment into possible future employees or entrepreneurs than to have your staff reach out to teach youth about how to code. This puts the company and individual ahead of the next curve, because the youth may be discussing possible changes they want to see and provide the seedling of a new venture.

4.      Investment means growth: Speaking of investing, sometimes investment comes in form of risks. Taking the time to go after a contract that you know the company can do, even if not everything lines up in skill, can be the best choice. It forces the company to get up training, expand their expertise, and improve moral by achieving a new challenge together. Investing in your people is critical to the success of your company.

5.      Take it one day at a time: Make your plans, set your goals, leave room for surprises and process every day as something new because it is. There will be good and bad surprises and while being ready for anything is proper planning, the small margin for error can tip the scale in another direction. Be open.

Women can not and will not run a business like man, because she is not built like man, and that is a wonderful thing because our code for success is written differently.