Women of Color in Technology: Log Onto Men’s World

The 13 Women of Color honorees and emcee Sharon Pian Chan (Photo by Scott Macklin/UW)

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

Thirty years ago, the words technology and computing did not exist the way they do today. As in many other fields, women had to break stereotypes and glass ceilings to reach executive levels in technology sectors. But society has evolved, and more women, specifically women of color, have risen to the top to make an impact in the industry.

The common theme at the Women of Color Empowered: Women in Technology event on Jan. 28 was that women should not be afraid to take risks and take on challenges in the workplace. The event took place at the New Hong Kong Restaurant. Thirteen women were honored for their accomplishments.

Taking risks seems to be a key factor in how many of the women got to where they are today. Charlotte Lin, who is a consultant for Paladin Investments, learned to be cautious about technology, but encouraged development to see where it leads people. Her advice was to not take the dead end and to take risks to see what will open the most doors.

Senior manager at Accenture, Rebecca Sanchez has seen many changes in technology since she started.

“We’ll get bright women who know what they’re doing, but they’d shy back in the field,” Sanchez said.

Her advice to people was to not be scared and to be confident.  “Don’t be afraid to toot your horn,” she said.

Gina Northover-Moore followed her motto of getting right back up if she ever fell off. Growing up on a cattle ranch and going from being a rodeo queen to an influence in technology, Northover-Moore helped American Indians explore the realm of technology when they didn’t have the resources.

Sonja Outlaw spoke on how the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center spent thousands of dollars on improving servers to better enhance the technological systems in the workplace.

On the other hand, Mala Chandra, CEO and founder of MyMobiLife LLC, talked about how business can leverage social media by conducting outreach, public relations, and marketing to show off the brand.

Natala Menezes, senior product manager at Amazon, said that technology can be gender-lined. While working at Microsoft years ago, Trish Dziko found herself to be the only woman of color in her group meetings.

“I had to prove myself, it was a constant push and pull working at Microsoft, but you should know you belong where you are,” she said.

She started working in diversity to bring different people in because she felt like companies were hiring the same type of people. Dziko felt that corporations should start investing in K-12 recruiting to stop hiring the same people. She is now the executive director of Tech Access Foundation, an organization that provides opportunities for underrepresented minority students, who lack the access to technology training in their public schools.

There were also several other current and past Microsoft employees featured at the event as well.

At Microsoft, as the director of global creative solutions, Melanie Caoile conducts a lot of research by reading trade magazines and finding out today’s hot trends to stay on top of technology.

Like Dziko, but in the education and technology field, Keiko Pitter, chief information officer at Whitman College, focuses on both teaching and learning when it comes to technology. She said that there is no difference between liberal arts colleges and other schools. She has to keep track of how students are using social media on campus.

North of Whitman College is Washington State University, where Viji Murali, vice president of information services and chief information officer, has been in IT for  more than 25 years. She started off as an organic chemistry researcher who moved into computer science.

Murali said that the university is currently developing handheld programs and applications so that students can work on handheld devices, much like applications envisioned by Venetia Espinoza at T-Mobile.

Going online has never been easier. IT associate director and senior consultant at Group Health Cooperative, Cam Herzog spoke about the innovative technologies of Group Health Cooperative.

She said that members can save time and money when utilizing the online options to make appointments, refill prescriptions, and e-mail doctors for advice.

Another phenomenon in the technology world is expanded use of different mobile devices. Venetia Espinoza of T-Mobile, spoke about making donations in the nonprofit arena through cell phones. The company is also working on the mobile payment platform as it crosses into the realm of credit cards, which means some day, cell phones could be used as a form of quick, electronic payment.

Kathryn Hinsch, founder and board president of the Women’s Bioethics Project, said, “We all have a stake in the kind of world we want to live in. But look at how much has changed over two decades; women no longer are quiet voices in the back of meeting rooms, but are at the forefront of the changing technologies.”

Local faces at the event included Congressman Jay Inslee and Lori Matsukawa.

The event was emceed by Sharon Pian Chan of The Seattle Times. ♦

For more information, visit www.womenofcolorempowered.com.

Nina Huang can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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