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Our Stories Part 2: Women in Tech Spotlighted at Internet2 2015 Technology Exchange

Oct 21, 2015, by Ana Hunsinger
Tags: 2015 Technology Exchange, Events, Executive Insights, Frontpage News, Gender Diversity Initiative

Today I want to continue my thoughts on the lack of diversity in the technology industry, and share insight on what the Internet2 community is doing to address it. This is part 2 of a blog series on the topic. Read part one now.

In my role at Internet2 as vice president of community engagement, along with the support of many colleagues and community members, we started an initiative to do more - to think about small wins and to take small steps to provide more support for women in our community.

The Internet2 Gender Diversity Initiative was launched in late spring of 2013. Today, the GDI is a community driven effort to increase diversity in networking and at all stages of professional development. It’s an effort to increase our own community diversity and demonstrate effective approaches that can be adopted more widely. We recognize that diversity and inclusion go beyond gender -- but this approach builds on small successes to evolve our community. If we can learn from some approaches, we believe this will inform and help us to further work in the areas of ethnic and racial diversity in technology.

The Internet2 GDI is led by a steering committee chaired by Indiana University’s Laurie Burns McRobbie and UCAR/NCAR’s Marla Meehl, along with the gracious commitment from other community members.

Through this amazing collaborative effort, propelled by Internet2 members, we now have some exciting endeavors in progress - some of which were recently featured at the 2015 Technical Exchange.  At the event, we announced the 2015 Gender Diversity Award recipients, which provide scholarships to women in the field of IT and spotlights their efforts to use technology to serve the faculty, staff and students of the institution. Three incredible technical women (new to Internet2) enriched the event and along with previous winners, I know that we are creating positive experiences to not just empower these individuals but to help them and get them more interested in what our community is doing. For me, this also means that we will have more women interested in getting more new women into our events.

Also at our event in Cleveland, we hosted more than 109 women, comprising 16% of total attendees – already a significant improvement from 2012 and 2013 where women were barely had 10% of total women participants. There is still much progress to be made, but I am encouraged by proactive efforts to ensure more participation of women and minorities in the events themselves, and also in the creation of the program and input in the content of the program.

Worth noting also, at Tech Ex we had a session on unconscious bias, featuring Inder Monga, along with SWE’s Peter Finn, Internet2’s CINO Florence Hudson, Internet2’s President and CEO Dave Lambert, and NCWIT Board Member, Avis Yates Rivers. Read more about it in part one of this blog series.

Yates shared that society is biased, that in order to make change, companies have to measure the diversity and be transparent about it, and that it isn’t a sprint—working towards a more inclusive and diverse IT community will take time. Programs like Sit with Me, which invite you to validate and recognize the important role women play in creating future technology-by taking a small but symbolic action: sitting in a red chair to share your story.

Another effort worth mentioning is a special and collaborative partnership with the Society of Women Engineers: The SWE@Internet2 Community. This program provides SWE memberships for up to 200 individual professional women working in IT, science, math, engineering or related technology fields at higher education member institutions. This week in Nashville, at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Annual Conference, Internet2's CINO Florence Hudson will speak on how “Collaborative Innovation Communities enable the Internet of Things” at the event and her presentation was selected from more than 800 proposals. She will also present “From Engineer to Senior Vice President -- The Long and Winding Road," detailing her career path and offering advice to others on how to achieve their professional dreams.

Internet2 is also collaborating the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). As membership organizations, each has become members of the other, expanding the incredible and very valuable resources that NCWIT produces to be shared with our community. I encourage you to take a look at the amazing resources that NCWIT has and continues to develop. One particular collaboration that is starting with NCWIT and that we are very excited about is a joint effort toward researching and gathering data to help articulate the gender composition and leadership in terms of women in the IT organizations of Internet2 members. This effort will help us better understand how women are able to meaningfully contribute to technical leadership and innovation – with the incredible subset of members that the Internet2 community represents. Ultimately, we hope that this effort will expand our understanding so that we can be better informed and take action. Stay posted for more information on this effort.

We do have more to do – a LOT, but I am incredibly proud of some of the things we are doing via Internet2 and the work in our community to make a difference.

It’s been proven that diversity enhances a team, by allowing them to solve complex problems better and faster than other groups. I believe that increasing diversity in our workplaces and our community can help drive innovation and the development of well-rounded and fresh ideas. As Yates told session attendees at our most recent Technology Exchange, “this isn’t about goals or quotas—this is a conversation about innovation, making sure community is as strong as it can be.”

I encourage you to get involved - contact me. I encourage you to get informed and get involved and help us participate in this important dialogue! I leave you with this video, which I hope will provoke thoughts and more call to action about increasing diversity in our community. I hope that through this and other dialogue we can continue the conversation about something that affects us all. As our good colleague and friend reminded us too, let’s remind ourselves of this extraordinary word “sonder” -- the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.