The Importance of Woman-Centered Spaces By Toni Colman

 My grandmother always said the biggest business deals were made on the golf course. When I looked around at the majority-male 2016 WTIA Golf Tournament, her words reverberated in my mind. How many women were missing out on forming valuable industry connections that day? Later, WTIA – the non-profit I work for as Director of Member Relations – received feedback from people who echoed my concerns. The desire to see women participate in the tournament was there, but it wasn’t actually translating to the golf course even though, at least technically, all genders were welcome at the event. It was clear that despite the great strides women have made in the professional sphere since my grandmother first began forming her observation, the imbalance I was witnessing wasn’t going to fix itself. It would take intentional, strategic action.

 I decided to form the tournament’s first women-only training group and team. I rounded up eight members and we met up once a week for six weeks and learned how to play golf. We drank beer, ate snacks, and worked on our skills in a pressure-free environment. Once the tournament rolled around, however, we were hit with a dose of reality. One man asked a teammate what hole she was working at, assuming she wasn’t there to play in the tournament; another asked a woman if she could connect him to one of the partners at her company, not considering the fact the woman herself might be a partner (she was). Someone else expressed frustration at us for going the wrong way on the lawn, and other men gave us unsolicited coaching advice. For better or for worse, we weren’t exactly surprised by these uncomfortable interactions. After all, changing people’s biases doesn’t happen overnight. The all-women team members agreed that it was a beneficial learning experience overall, and wanted to continue making male-dominated spaces more woman-centered.

 

To that end, I next put together a women’s poker tournament. Poker is another activity typically coded as masculine, which means few women learn it and those who do can be averse to playing it since they’ll likely be playing with men. (Fact: Significantly more women play poker online than in-person, probably for this reason.) The interest in the event was staggering—75 women ended up participating. The turnout reaffirmed my belief that many women were interested in doing traditionally “manly” things, as long as intentional spaces were created for them to feel comfortable in. Being the only woman on the golf course or at the poker table can be a daunting experience, and those spaces will remain male-dominated if we are only relying on women to brave such spaces independently.

These experiences have opened my eyes to exactly what it will take to challenge the ubiquity of professional, male-dominated spaces. I’m taking all I’ve learned to my company so we can use it to best empower women in tech. WTIA is committed to creating intentional, professional spaces for women where networking and growth can flourish without being stifled by the pervading cultural norms that discourage women from full participation and therefore maintain the gender imbalance. If you care about doing this work with us, contact me at toni@washingtontechnology.org and tell me how you want to shake things up or come see me at the Women in Cloud Summit on January 26th to build your network and expand your tribe!

Credit: This article was written by Toni Colman, Director of Member Relations, Washington Technology Industry Association

Celebrating Women in Cloud: Charting the Route for Fellow Female Leaders By Kelly Browning

The cloud has officially touched almost every aspect of the business: from infrastructure and AI to mobile workforces and social impact. We hear about major industry trends, technologies, and M&As, but what we don’t often hear about are the women in the workforce that are powering these technologies and organizations.

I’ve been working in the Cloud Computing community for the past 2.5 years and while the technology advancements and latest startups are constantly changing, one thing has remained the same: the amount of women in the industry who are highlighted is nowhere near their male counterparts who are touted as industry experts, thought leaders, and keynote speakers. Attend any tech conference or industry trade show and guaranteed it’ll be the one place you’ll ever go where the line for the women’s restroom is shorter than the men’s. Great for us at the time, but not as great for the overall industry in the long run.

So how do we address this ongoing issue? By coming together and sharing our stories, experiences, insights, expertise, and advice to lift each other up and give voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise be heard.

BrightTALK has done this by launching an online Women in Tech community where we’ve partnered with the Women in Cloud initiative to help provide a platform for these conversations. Since it’s inception in November 2016, we’ve grown the community to over 18,000 subscribers.

Check out some of the sessions hosted on BrightTALK here:

The Women in Cloud Summit is another fantastic way of addressing and closing the gap between female and male leaders in the industry. It’s a once-a-year opportunity to come together and hear from the top women in Cloud Computing on how they’ve gotten to where they are today and what both men and women can do for future generations of women in technology.

Whether you’re looking for a mentor/mentee relationship, how to stay ahead of the technology curve in this fourth industrial revolution, network with like-minded professionals or learn a new skillset, there’s something at the Women in Cloud Summit for everyone.

Register here to join us in January and play a key role in supporting the Women in Cloud community.

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Please connect with Kelly Browing to explore mutual opportunities!