Celebrating women in technology during Women’s History Month!

As we enter March, we prepare for a month of celebrating women. In 1987 the US Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month, providing an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the many achievements of women over the years. In accordance with this special time, we also celebrate women in technology, which causes me to reflect a bit on my own past.

I’m often asked, “How did you get into the technology field?”  My answer is simple – sort of by accident.

I remember starting college with only a vague idea of what career I wished to pursue. However, I was absolutely sure of one thing (or so I thought): whatever I ended up doing, it would have nothing to do with computers. At that time, women were not encouraged to take a computing/technology path, so my thinking made sense.

I wasn’t aware of my passion or interests back then but thought I might enjoy teaching. After discussions with my guidance counselor, multiple professors, and internal reflection, I was discouraged from pursuing that profession. When the time arrived to declare my major, and still unsure of the direction I wanted to go, I opted for a general business management degree.

To enter the College of Business, an advisor explained I’d need to earn credits in a computing class. #MyNightmare! I knew nothing about computers and had never even turned one on at that point in my life. Most of my friends took computing courses in high school, but not me. Remember, this was the one thing I knew I did not want to do!

I had no interest in writing code or working with hardware, which is what I really thought computing was all about. My anxiety skyrocketed but I understood I must take a course. When it came time to enroll, my fears calmed – just a bit. The college had just started offering a more “software-based” series of courses. I could learn about computing without becoming a programmer or hardware expert! I was still nervous walking into that first class but, to my surprise, found it wasn’t that bad.

That first course led to several others I actually enjoyed enough to declare a second major in Administrative Information Systems (AIS). A month before graduation, a guest speaker in one of my AIS classes changed my life. She had recently graduated with an AIS degree and talked about her career as a software application trainer for one of the largest, most well-known technology companies. Wait a minute I thought…she’s instructing adults in the corporate world about software applications! I just (accidentally) found my desired career path! My prior interest in teaching and my new love for computing had just collided! Shortly after graduation, I landed a job as a software trainer. Almost 30 years later, I’ve never looked back and know I made the best decision.

While the world of technology never ceases to surprise and amaze, it always comes with challenges. In the beginning, there just weren’t many women in the field. It was often unnerving and objectionable to be the only female (or one of very few) in a room full of professional, business-minded men.

For decades society encouraged women to pursue careers in the arts and humanities, and men outnumbered women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) by at least 3:1. Today we see more women in these fields, with more encouragement to enter, but the numbers are still skewed.

I’ve seen so many changes in technology over the years: from traditional in-person, instructor-led courses to more self-paced, online training, and from the traditional desktop with locally installed software to a mobile-first, cloud-based environment. The world of technology constantly changes. I’m so happy to have been a part of helping others learn and understand it and hope to continue for many years to come!

The path to a career in technology is different for everyone. No one encouraged me to venture in this direction, and I accidentally ended up here. To create more opportunities for young girls in STEM fields, we must not only celebrate women excelling in these industries today but also encourage young girls who show an interest in technology to help them realize they can succeed.

Several organizations recognize that today’s students are tomorrow’s technology gurus, such as Girls Who Code, TechTogether and IGNITE (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution). These groups inspire young girls to follow their dreams and help them gain skills across a wide range of technology paths. The Microsoft DigiGirlz program offers middle and high schoolers opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. And if you’re beyond high school and already employed, it’s never too late to expand your technology skills and knowledge. All of us at LRS Education Services would love to help you!

Women’s History Month recognizes those women who have been pioneers in the world of computing and technology, but it’s also a time to widen the trail for those who will follow. From the classroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between, let’s all work together to help girls and women of all ages meet or discover their visions!

Penny Morgan, Technical Education Instructor, LRS Education Services

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