In my job as Civic Engagement Manager, I have the distinct pleasure of interacting with many amazing women who are influencing civic engagement and fueling innovation in Boston. In honor of Women’s History Month, Microsoft New England asked a number of inspiring women what empowers them. Check on their responses below and don’t forget to share and tweet these posts to spread the word about the great work these women are driving in Boston!
— Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England
“Wow, doesn’t it feel empowering to solve a problem by creating something?”
Why, yes, it does.
Here’s the problem:
I’ve gone to so many tech events and business conferences where none of the speakers looked like me…not that I need to specifically see tall pale wild-haired women on stage. I just want to see any woman. The dearth of women at the front of the room at any event is startling. Panel after panel, speaker after speaker, we see few, if any female speakers or presenters. If we do see woman on a panel, they often came off as an afterthought. Or worse, the token woman.
We all know that there is a shortage of women at the top – boards, C-level positions and venture funding all lack female representation. And, in order for women to achieve these successes, they have to be visible. One of the best ways to get known is to speak in public. To be on panels. To keynote various events. To be a featured speaker.
While many event organizers make an honest effort to balance panels, actively seeking female representation, it’s hard to get a gender balanced panel. The odds are against you in many fields, especially tech.
Many event organizers turn to their personal experience or rolodex of speakers (for the millennials, a Rolodex is a physical manifestation of your phone contact list 🙂 ). If they haven’t seen someone speak, they are often reluctant to place them on a panel. If they frequent events with a heavy male roster, the gender balance is unlikely to get better.
“I invited female speakers and they turned me down.” I hear this one a lot. It’s because you are asking the same five female speakers! Over and over again. There are lots of options out there, you need to find them.
Here’s where we come in:
Innovation Women will be an online speaker’s bureau specifically for innovation, entrepreneurial and technical women. It will allow women to show off their thought leadership and people assembling panels or events to find great speakers. We crowdfunded in December and are currently working on getting the Kickstarter backer profiles loaded – nothing like a successful Kickstarter campaign to make you feel powerful. We want to have hundreds of profiles when we let the event managers in to search for speakers.
Because visibility is opportunity. The more women we get to the front of the room, the more women will get funded, offered management jobs and get invited to be on boards.