As Linda continues in the role of Executive Women’s Forum Director, we took the opportunity to talk with her about transformation that is manifesting in tech higher education, and the tech community in general.
“What’s changing right now is there is a broader conversation about what it takes to get into IT,” she explained. “We are successfully, finally busting the myth that you have to have a degree in computer science to work in tech. That is being demonstrated through increased opportunity for credentials and certifications, and increased willingness of employers to consider candidates with those achievements.”
Calvin has seen a shift in corporate attitudes beyond hiring practices. “What I’m also seeing is a greater conversation around more diversity being needed in tech. Now, I don’t know if that conversation itself is manifesting impact. Studies have shown the conversation has been going on for years but nothing is changing practically. Women of color still only hold 4% of the tech jobs in the US. But what is changing is programs being implemented at big tech like Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, and Salesforce to act on these intentions. We can only hope that trend continues and the example trickles down to smaller companies.”
With that said, Linda does not diminish the value of conversations about the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In fact, the ability to lead those conversations is part of why she has stayed committed to a leadership position with Women & Hi Tech. “In the months following the death of George Floyd and in light of other racial injustices of 2020, everyone wanted to enter into the conversation about diversity. But now, just a year later, White support for movements like Black Lives Matter is shown to be lower than it was before Floyd’s death,” Calvin pointed out.
“These conversations cannot achieve impact when they are only held in moments of heightened awareness and pain. Women & Hi Tech has a duty and an obligation as a leading women’s organization in STEM to keep the message alive and keep the conversation going to truly effect change and make the landscape of STEM inclusive for all women.”
As she organizes the Executive Women’s Forums, it is Linda’s priority to ensure attendees walk away inspired to act in some way that improves their personal or professional life. This could be as small as a choice to use a blurred background on Zoom for personal security, or as high-level as tools to bring conversation back to their own networks. “We have all attended enough webinars and virtual meetings to last a lifetime during the pandemic. My mission is that our events will not be the ones you multitask through, that they will instead serve as a catalyst and inspiration for some change in each attendee’s life.”
Calvin also appreciates the opportunity to showcase women in STEM who are leaders in their fields, subject matter experts who are blazing new trails for the future. “We see examples every day of companies that are failing because they don’t have enough diverse perspectives involved in their developments of products, services, and messaging.” She cited local examples like Newfields as well as international examples like Gucci. “As we see more diverse people, especially women, move into positions of power and influence, they don’t just generate more innovation with their perspective, but also share insights that can prevent those lawsuits and lost revenue.”
Ultimately, Calvin believes events like the Executive Women’s Forum are essential tools for myth-busting about women in STEM, for both employers and young girls and women aspiring to future careers. “These events make visible and reinforce the fact that women CAN be leaders in STEM. In turn, we can then be those that break down artificial constructs that separate people from meaningful success. Because when people can see us, they know they can be us.”