Building your own Women in Technology group doesn’t happen overnight!

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Recently I was asked to speak at the St Louis Women In Tech Exchange – A community for any woman in technology looking for a tribe to share, empower, energize, and support.  This group is spearheaded by Ladan Kamfar, Digital Collaboration Lead with Monsanto Company. Ladan has done an amazing job creating an open, positive, and inspiring environment.

I was asked to share my journey on building and cultivating the Aspect WIT Community. It wasn’t until I developed my objectives for this presentation that I believed I had something to offer this group.  My goal was straightforward, inspire one individual to take a step forward around building any form of a WIT community in their workplace.  I hoped to do this by sharing the successes and challenges I have faced along the way.

My process for presentation development is one I borrow from my acting training with the Stanislavski System.  I research, I meditate, I brainstorm, and I look holistically at the subject to understand the motivation for my actions.  In theater, this would be the process a director would take to define the plays ‘Super Objective’ which would impact every decision and action the actors make leading them towards a goal.

Using this process, I asked myself, Why I do “WIT”?

I came up with three main themes:

  • I must be a part of a community that focuses on closing the gender gap for women in technology.
  • I want to inspire others and give them a platform to share their stories
  • I hope to make a difference ensuring a better tomorrow for my girls & ALL GIRLS!

I WIT, because I desire a community that shares stories, concerns, ideas – all with an objective to make a difference.  That’s it.  As Simon Sinek defines so well, that is my WHY.

Building your own WIT community must begin with a desire to connect, and/or to make a change, to find or be a mentor, to learn, to make a difference, and so on.  No matter the reason, the desire must be there.  These communities do not typically sprout up overnight.  They are the natural progression when the participants want MORE.  Keep in mind your community doesn’t need to be formal right out of the gate.  My advice is to begin with an advocate in your companies Human Resources Team.  At Aspect, I am lucky to have executive sponsorship from Guido DeKoning, SVP of Human Capital.  Guido has given me the freedom to develop our community in a way that makes sense for our members.  He is a great partner that ensures the Aspect WIT initiatives stay top of mind within the Executive team.

Work-life balance is always an important issue.  It is important to share the responsibilities with others in your organization and set realistic goals.  I throttle up and down my own personal involvement based on workload and personal commitments.  This not only keeps me sane but also gives everyone involved an opportunity to drive an initiative they are most passionate about.

I shared the Aspect WIT Mission to Share, Jubilate, and Advocate. 

This lead to a lively discussion about how some WIT programs are simply masks of corporate development programs potentially sending the message to women that they are ‘not enough’.  We all agreed that continued development is key to success, but that a WIT community is a unique opportunity to celebrate that ‘we are enough’ as we are today.   At Aspect WIT we are proud to focus on Advocacy as a core mission of our community.

I ended the session with a challenge to the audience – do one thing in the next month to make a difference – and now I extend that to anyone who reads this blog:

  • Tell your boss you are interested in WIT activities
  • Find a like-minded co-worker
  • Attend local events (Yes!)
  • SHARE – Blog / Vlog / Tweet
  • Be inclusive (yes – invite the MEN)
  • Ask HR to support a book, speaker, event…
  • Your company’s WIT group can start with YOU!

The next St Louis Women Tech exchange is next week, I look forward to hearing the results of my challenge.  Stay tuned and if you take my challenge, let me know what you find!