Last year in our board profile of Women & Hi Tech Membership Administration Director Carol Ganz, we shared the story of Ganz’s non-traditional path to a job in tech, and how involvement with Women & Hi Tech helped her find her group of kindred spirits. This year, we spoke with her more about how continued volunteerism on the board is helping her directly contribute to advancing gender equality with regards to opportunities in tech.
“Women & Hi Tech is the third nonprofit board I’ve been involved with. I wasn’t sure what value I could add at first, but in the three years I’ve been involved, it’s been exciting and meaningful to work with sponsors and their member-employees to make sure they are getting the most possible value out of their relationship with Women & Hi Tech.” Ganz went on to explain that she joined Women & Hi Tech to understand more about the diversity and inclusion challenges that women face in STEM work environments.
“At Six Feet Up, the software company and digital consultancy where I transitioned to the tech industry, we are very intentional about maintaining gender diversity and other inclusion on our team. Of course, it helps to be a woman-owned business” Ganz explained. “I am lucky to work in a tech company where people are treated fairly, and I want all of my sisters in STEM to experience a similar caring and growth-promoting work environment.”
Outside high-profile events like the Leading Light Awards and Scholarship Gala and OperationALL, Ganz says she always finds value and insight from the Executive Women’s Forums. “You might think you already know the topic under conversation, but the panelists always contain nuggets and new perspectives that make it worth your time.”
Virtual events have become something of a passion project for Carol and her peers at Six Feet Up during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the company was tasked with moving a planned 200-person conference online in a matter of two weeks. “Every event we attended and every event platform we examined, we were just being talked at with no opportunity to network or engage in conversation with other attendees,” Ganz shared. “So we decided to develop our own platform, which is now finding its own life as a white-glove option for digital event planners.” The features and functionality of this platform are indicative of Six Feet Up’s understanding of the emotions driving digital transformation—the desire to deliver a smooth online experience and minimize frustration.
“From coding languages to user expectations, the question of what’s changing in tech becomes a question of what isn’t changing,” Ganz said. “The answer is, inclusion—or at least it isn’t changing fast enough.” Ganz recalled a recent Executive Women’s Forum where one panelist shared research that reaching full equity in tech could take more than 100 more years. “I hope it doesn’t actually take that long, and luckily there are things we can do to make it happen faster.” Carol observed that having more women in STEM leadership roles will break down barriers and biases. “One huge barrier is stereotypical thinking that women can’t do X. Can’t drive a semi, can’t write complex code, can’t make hard decisions. The truth is we can—it’s just others often feel threatened that a woman can do the same things as them, because they were themselves given certain biases.”
Ganz says this phenomenon of hidden biases is one reason the work of Women & Hi Tech is so important. “It feels like beating the same drum over and over, to keep talking about making STEM equally inclusive for all. But we have to realize that everyone absorbs a message at a different time in a different way. We have to continue to present the case for diversity, and the benefits of diversity. To invite male allies to learn more about how they can be truly inclusive and make sure they are treating everyone equitably.”
Carol says she also sees hope in the generations that will soon be entering the workforce. “Every generation does better than the ones before them and brings something new with them to advance the cause of acceptance, because they don’t carry the same biases with them. Change is the only constant,” she concluded, “and when we can work together to view change and growth as fun, versus an inconvenience, the opportunities are endless.”