The Research Triangle Park

Women in Tech Summit 2016: Q&A With Organizer Gloria Bell

By Aug 23, 2016

On October 1, The Frontier will be hosting the North Carolina Women In Tech Summit. This event is designed to inspire, educate, and connect women in the technology industry. The event will feature a unique combination of deep-dive, hands-on tech workshops; information and discussions about careers in tech and how to pursue them; and connection and networking opportunities with other women in various aspects and careers in technology. 

All profits generated from this event support the non-profit Tech Girlz and its ongoing mission to inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers.

The Women in Tech Summit was founded by the wonderful Gloria Bell, who is passionate about growing the community of women in technology. We asked her a few questions about the importance of women in tech, equality, and the power of this community:

Q: How did the Women in Tech Summit come about?

“The Women in Tech Summit was started as a way to bring together women working in various areas of tech, on both the business and the technical side, in the Philadelphia area, to connect them and help expand their networks. It was originally meant to be a one day, one time conference. We had 125 women attend the first event and it was so popular, before the end of that day, we were already receiving requests to make it an annual event. Four years later, we sold out our venue in 3 weeks with 325 attendees and we had 250 women on the wait list wanting to attend. The following year was the same, but with 350 attendees. That was when the expansion idea took root. We were hearing from women all over the country that the Women in Tech Summit was different from any of the other women in tech conferences they had attended. Our unique combination of technical talks, career development speakers and panels and hands-on workshops on a variety of technical topics, not just coding, struck a chord with women no matter the type of tech they worked on or the role they had in their companies. So we took our show on the road! First to Baltimore in September 2015, then to Washington D.C., Philadelphia and soon to be in Raleigh-Durham this year.  In 2017, we are expanding to five events across the country.”

Q: What can we expect from the Summit?

“You can expect to have a different experience than most technical or women in tech conferences. First, our attendees are women from all different areas of tech and from both the business and technical sides. They also span the full life-cycle of a career – students to CEOs. Our sessions and workshops will explore many different aspects of technology. We believe that the best thing you can do for your career, no matter what level you are at, is to have a diverse network of other women working in the industry doing a lot of different things at a lot of different levels.

Our aim is to educate, connect and inspire our attendees. We are firm believers that the summit does not end when we close the event for the day. The connections our attendees make, the things they learn and the inspiration they take away from being a part of the summit last long past this one day. Some of our attendees have gone to start new careers in many different areas of tech, learn to code and get jobs as developers, ask for raises and flexible benefits and even start their own companies.”

Q: In your own words, why is it so important to support women in the technology sector?

“While it would be nice to look at supporting women in tech and bringing more women into technology as solely a social imperative, the reality is that it is also an economic one. The US Dept of Labor predicts there will 1.4 million new jobs just in the technology industry by 2020, but only 400,000 of those will be filled with qualified candidates. This means that there will be at least 1 million jobs, just in the tech industry, that can not be filled with trained technologists. Besides this statistic, The US Department of Labor estimates that by the year 2018, 80% of ALL jobs will be tech enabled.

One of the best ways that we can encourage other girls and women to join the technology sector is by providing roles models and educating them about the highly diverse types of technology careers. We produce those solid role models and examples by supporting the women that are currently working in the industry and ensuring that they stay in the industry. By connecting, educating and inspiring them, we build stronger networks to help achieve that goal.”

Q: Women’s right have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go. How can we help promote equality in the workplace?

“This is a complicated question that probably has a slightly different answer in every individual situation. At the Women in Tech Summit, we believe that one of the best ways to promote equality in the workplace is to ensure that women are as educated as possible on the opportunities that are available and that they have the skills and the network that will help them succeed in those opportunities. Confidence in your skills and a supportive network go a long way to allowing the space for women to speak up for the things they have earned and deserve. 

Equality in the tech industry gets closer as we increase the number of women working in the industry.”

Q: Who are some women that inspire you?

“The list of women who inspire me is so long that I can’t list them all here. Let’s just say the women who inspire me are the ones who believe in their dreams, work hard to make them realities and understand the importance of supporting others.”

Q: What song gets you pumped up about female empowerment?

“Again, a tough question! There are so many great choices. The first two that come to mind immediately are Helen Reddy’s ‘I am Woman‘ and Alicia Keys’ ‘Girl on Fire.”

Want to sign up for the Women In Tech Summit? Click here for more information!

What songs and women make you feel empowered? Tweet at us, @theRTP and @RTPFrontier!