Women & Hi Tech Book Club Expands Perspectives
Did you know Women & Hi Tech has a book club? Since September 2020, our members have been meeting once a quarter to discuss great books on STEM and professional development topics.
We sat down to talk with the club’s founder, current Women & Hi Tech Secretary Kelly Sandstrom, as well as members of the club to talk about their experience so far and what is coming next for the group.
Women & Hi Tech Book Club Details and Meeting Information
So far, the book club has met three times, once per quarter since its inception. Here are the books they have discussed:
- September 2020: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
- December 2020: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
- March 2021: The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone.
The fourth meeting is scheduled for June 21, with the selected book being Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.
“Women & Hi Tech members are encouraged to submit book nominations to the book club chair,” explained Kelly. “When enough nominations are collected, a poll is created during a book club meeting to vote on the next read. In the absence of enough nominations, the book club chair will select a relevant title for the book club to read next.”
The club has been very excited to have two of its meetings joined by authors! Elise Foster, who co-authored The Multiplier Effect with Wiseman, attended the December meeting. And Jason Fagone attended the March meeting where his book was discussed.
“Sometimes the authors have been facilitators themselves, guiding the meeting in a way that our attendees have gotten more of a workshop during our meeting hour. At other points, the authors have been able to give insight into the book writing process, and book club attendees asked more direct questions about the history and details of the story itself. What a treat for our book club participants!” Kelly celebrated.
Book club member Sharon Tuttle agreed. She specifically attended the book club due to the relevance of Fagone’s book to her professional life. “I was thrilled to hear the author would be attending our meeting,” she shared. “I was captivated by the level of detail the author researched to write this story. It was insightful to understand how difficult it was for him to find the hidden documents and files relating to this story.”
And now, Sharon is excited to keep attending the book club. “My initial response to the invitation to join this particular book club meeting was solely based on the significance of the topic of the book to my work. Now, I look forward to reading the next book and participating again. I can attest to these discussions providing diverse viewpoints on a variety of perspectives which I find broaden my own intellect and understanding of the topic.”
Why a Women & Hi Tech Book Club?
As the events of 2020 forced our members to be distant from one another, Kelly thought of this idea to connect our members for more structured and intentional conversation. “The book club is such a fun way to get out and network and meet new people with similar interests,” she said. “You can always guarantee that you will either meet someone new at a book club meeting or have a new type of conversation with an old friend.”
Book club member Josuenny O’Donnell agreed. “It is a joy to hear about other members' experiences with the books and hear how different aspects resonate with each person,” she said. “The discussions help to create a bigger picture of the significant aspects of a book. In particular, when reading Multipliers I felt a disconnect from the material. Yet, when those in leadership roles related the information to their own lives, I began to understand how the lessons are applicable to me (both in the present and when making decisions in the future).”
Experiencing Diverse Perspectives
These member experiences point to one of the biggest benefits members are finding in the book club, a chance to engage with others’ perspectives on the reading material. “There is tremendous value in the perspective diversity of book club meetings, because it's a safe space to share without feeling judged,” said Kelly.
“I love learning the different takeaways each person finds in the story and which part of the book resonated most with everyone,” said book club member and Women & Hi Tech President Rebecca Bormann. “I always gain additional insight or a new perspective during our book club discussion!”
Another element of diversity inherent in the meetings is the subject material of the books themselves.
“I don't usually read non-fiction, but The Women Who Smashed Codes had so many fantastic elements, it's even more fascinating that it is a true story,” Josuenny said. “Elizebeth Friedman's accomplishments are something worth discussing. From the beginning the reader is invested in her life story and how she moves from one crazy adventure to another. Moreover, it is an inspiring tale of finding passions and pursuing them. I was also inspired to try cryptograms and use the methods that were described in the book, which made the puzzles a lot more accessible.”
Rebecca agreed that this was her favorite book so far. “I don't think I would have ever picked this book on my own. And it was a fantastic book; from an educational, inspirational, and enjoyable perspective. I loved learning about code-breaking – I knew nothing about it before. This book shared the history of code breaking along with the joys and challenges the heroine and her family experienced.”
When asked what comes next for the book club, Kelly says she is sure the incredible discoveries and conversations will continue. “I believe book clubs are best executed face-to-face, to further the social interaction,” she added. “I am looking forward to the day when we will have an in-person meeting option for the book club.”
Register to attend the Q2 Women & Hi Tech Book Club Meeting Here!