Redefining Women in Tech — A Eugene, Oregon Experiment

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redefining women tech panel

Three years ago I was recruiting for a technical lead position in Eugene, Oregon and was struggling with it. I asked a friend for advice.

At the time, my friend was also running a software development company, but he was willing to offer us headhunting services since his team was fully staffed. When we sat down to talk about our ideal candidate, I listed my desired skills and qualifications. At one point, I accidentally found myself referring to the candidate as “him” before quickly correcting myself and adding “or her.”

My friend looked at me and laughed,
“Do you really think that if we found a woman with these qualifications we would give her to you? We would keep her for ourselves!”

His reaction stuck with me.

I realized in that moment how much power women in technical roles have, and how high the demand is. I also realized we have an opportunity within our community to close the gap. Eugene is just small enough and different enough that we should be able to make an impact.

Soon after this experience I was asked to join the Lane County Community College CIT Advisory Board, in part because I am female and they want more diversity on the board. On the agenda every quarter was a line item to discuss improving gender diversity in the program. After several meetings, a group of women from the board formed a subcommittee to discuss the initiative, gather data, and research existing efforts.

We invited Kiki Prottsman, local women-in-tech topic expert, to advise us. Her experience founding and running a non-profit that focused on gender-inclusive STEAM programming and as Education Program Manager for Code.org has taught her a great deal about diversity in tech fields.

Recently, I asked Kiki,
“Diversifying tech teams is such a multi-faceted issue. When a company asks you where to start, what do you tell them?”

Her answer surprised me:
Language.

The language you use in your job descriptions, in the way you describe your culture, in your day-to-day team communication — it has an impact.

We decided that it was time to start a new conversation about tech.

We asked ourselves,
What would get more women to come and join our conversation? What do they all have in common?

One answer is social media, LinkedIn.
Professionals today should have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile as much as they should have an intelligently crafted resume. Most professionals also wish they knew how to get more out of it.

It became clear that for our first community discussion we should gather female topic experts to lead a conversation about social media and provide practical LinkedIn advice. After the discussion, attendees would have the opportunity to get personalized advice and skill endorsements.

The community response was impressive.

The room was packed with smiling women and men. The crowd was composed of high school students, students from LCC and University of Oregon, local educators, program managers, people looking for career change, mixed in with some of the more familiar EugeneTech and Eugene-Springfield Startups faces. The women on the panel provided a diverse cross section of experience, and the audience responded to that.

After the panel, before the event was over, gratitude began to pour in. The feedback was mainly positive, and some was really interesting.

Finish reading Lauren’s insights in her Medium article


Written by Lauren Jerome

From power tools to computers, tech has been influential in Lauren Jerome’s career development. Shortly after completing an undergrad in Mechanical Engineering, she realized her interest was in software. She spent the early years of her career retraining, writing code, leading projects, and working with other industry professionals to gain a wide range of expertise on custom software integrations and implementations. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Credits:

Photography by Lyssa Louise

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