NCWIT Summit empowers young women in techology
In May, WSGC scholar Karolina Pyszkiewicz was selected student ambassador to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Summit 2014 in southern California. This event brought together over 700 industry professionals to discuss gender issues in computing and ways to encourage more women to enter the technology field. Before leaving for her summer internship at Google, Karolina agreed to share her experience with us.
One of the highlights was the people I met, because I was surrounded by hundreds of individuals that share the same excitement for computer science that I feel. Twenty-five other college women were selected to attend the NCWIT Summit, and we easily bonded over our common passion for computing. We all became very close by the end of the three days, and are planning to see each other again at more tech conferences in the future.
There were opportunities to meet industry professionals, both from large established companies as well as small startups. I had dinner with employees from Bloomberg and had lunch with employees from Apple. I really enjoyed getting to know them and sharing my opinion on how we should get more women into computing, as well as hearing about their experiences at their companies and learning about the work environment as a whole.
I was also invited to join a startup project. Two UW Bothell professors have spent a year working on a game for young girls that will expose them to computer science and hopefully encourage them to pursue it in the future. After coming home from the summit, I reached out to one of the people I had talked to, and he connected me with the woman who leads this project. She generously set aside time to call me. Since I already had internship plans for this summer, she gave me some other options of how I could get involved with them, including doing independent study during the school year, considering it as a capstone project for my senior year, and potentially doing an internship with them next summer. Before the close of our conversation, she let me know she would gladly keep me up to date on the progress of their project. I’m passionate about exposing computer science to younger kids, and can’t wait to see the results of these efforts in the future!
The sessions over the course of three days included talks by accomplished individuals such as Maggie Neal, a professor at Stanford University, who spoke about women and negotiation in the workplace. At many tech companies today, as well as in other industries, women are afraid to negotiate with their bosses, and therefore receive less pay and privileges than men do, even if they hold equal standing within the company.
Someone asked her after the talk, “Is it better to be liked or respected?” She answered that good leaders will not be liked by everyone, because you will always be stepping on someone’s toes. She also advised us to negotiate so that the other person believes they end up benefiting from it, when you are receiving the benefit as well. I tend to be a people pleaser and want to make everyone happy but I learned that this should not always be the case if I want to be an effective leader. Moving on from the conference, I hope to be more assertive and more confident in myself and my motives and opinions, and hopefully people will recognize me as a strong leader ad respect me for it.
The conference ended with a keynote speech from Chelsea Clinton. She believes that more girls should be encouraged to pursue STEM-related careers, because greater diversity in the workplace results in a diversity of minds and ideas. In order to serve a heterogeneous population, we need diverse engineers that understand all perspectives of what the world needs.
At first I was pretty intimidated by the other girls at the summit because they are very talented, intelligent women from around the country who have accomplished so much in their lives already. All of them go to prestigious schools, have done various internships and research, and have started successful clubs or organizations. One morning at breakfast, my friend from Harvard asked me for technical interview advice. She knew I would be interning at Google this summer and wanted to know how my interview went and how she could prepare for a Google interview herself. I was surprised to be giving advice to this intelligent woman who is involved in intensive research with a Stanford professor in the field of biotechnology, but later I realized that she was just as inspired and impressed by me as I was by her.
From this conversion, I learned that all of us are equally talented in different ways. Moving on into my career and at future events like this I will remember not be as intimidated by others around me, because we’ve all had different experiences that make us talented and creative in different ways. I am already connected with other college students and industry professionals from this summit through email, LinkedIn, etc. I hope that our relationships will continue to grow and maybe I’ll even be working alongside them in my future career!
As I was boarding the plane to go home, several men behind me noticed my Google backpack and asked me if I work there. I told them that I am a freshman in college and will be interning for Google in the Bay Area this summer. Fascinated, they asked me about what team I would be working on and if I know what project I’ll be involved in. I was happy to see men are excited that a young woman like me is passionate about a field that is still heavily lacking in women, and their support and excitement gives me hope for the progress that we can make in the future.
To learn more about the National Center for Women & Information Technology and ways to increase women’s participation in technology and computing, visit http://www.ncwit.org/