Decline of Women in Technology, but Hope Shines Through

Yesterday, I attended the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Women in Technology conference at the Ronald Reagan Building. The morning was kicked off with a keynote by Rebecca Zimmerman, Vice President of Strategic Solutions, @Mind Over Machines. Ms. Zimmerman started off the conversation with the stark reality that there has been an alarming decline in women in technology – both in graduating classes of computer science majors as well as women leaving the IT field.

Hearing these facts made me shift uncomfortably in my chair. I knew the statistics for women in technology were pretty dim. And I have known this for some time (for example, I recall a week long program that was run back in 1996 through the Whitehead Institute at MIT called “Women in Technology” to encourage females in high school with great aptitude to pursue their dreams). But hearing this again, at a Women in Technology conference reminded me that the macro trends are disappointing and seem to be getting only worse.

Luckily this dismal reality was quickly revived with the introduction of two of Washington’s most influential leaders in technology, media and government, Katharine Weymouth, CEO of Washington Post Media, and Casey Coleman, CIO of GSA. Katharine discussed the Washington Post and the changes and benefits for the internet age and Casey discussed the rapid transformation of tools to create more efficiency and energy savings within government such as cloud computing (I was shocked to learn that data centers in the U.S. account for 1-2% of our energy consumed).

So while statistically there is a shortage of women leaders in technology, the ones who are in action are doing great things and carry a lot of influence and weight on behalf of others. Casey Coleman and Linda Cureton, CIO of NASA Goddard, for example both regularly share their insights on their blogs, Around the Corner and NASA blogs, respectively.

And if you look hard, there are many more women making great strides in technology. Just as a partial list, consider this article published in O’Reilly Media.

This conference had a great start. Aside from the outstanding presentations by women who stand as excellent role models, there was an undeniable buzz in the air of women who had just had a “fire lit under their seat.” I left feeling extremely optimistic about the passion this group of women has to do great things in formerly more of a man’s world and with our current female leaders, we’re on the right track. Check out this article on the Most Influential Women in Technology run by Fast Company!

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And we can’t forget Karen Evans the former E-gov administrator who Vivek Kundra replaced. There are lots of great women in technology but there definitely needs to more. I’m excited to see that on GovLoop and Gov 2.0 events that there are a lot of women – closer to the 50% ration than most of the macro-stats.