‘Uplift: Technology for Women’ diversity/inclusion conference informed, inspired

‘Uplift: Technology for Women’ diversity/inclusion conference informed, inspired

The delicate issues of diversity and women entering the technology sector have been discussed at great length within the past few years. Discussions about women, diversity and technology are faced with a new boldness – in which now more than ever before – girls will lead the way in discovering the next medical or technological breakthrough. Such issues were the highlight of a day-long conference dedicated to women in technology.

The conference
Uplift: Technology for Women was hosted at Serendipity Labs, located at One South Wacker, and was attended by students as well as advanced professionals. Various conference tracks ran concurrently that touched on the relevance of women, technology and the new face of business. Companies large and small have made great strides in increasing the visibility of women in the technology sector while promoting diversity and inclusion.

Minorities being invited, prepared and trained to work within technology has proven to successfully boost brand’s awareness to why diversity is important and how it can provide for a better generation of future leaders and innovative solutions to today’s problems. The Uplift conference delivered extensive content and solutions on increasing the visibility of minorities, as well as a means to network while learning new technical skills. The conference also provided attendees opportunities to inquire about technology-related job openings, as well as ask any industry-related questions.

Technology for Women: backstory
In 2011, digital publisher Dante Hamilton – founder of Internet Webpages Newspaper (IWN) and Chicago Blog Week, along with business partner Bruce Montgomery, CTO of the Englewood Blue small business incubator and Technology Access Television founder and CEO – initially created a technology for women meetup group. The group never got to take off, as the group didn’t have a consistent location for meetups. Fast forward to 2014, a few more members joined – one of which was Emily Bichler from West Monroe Partners. Hamilton explains how the group gained momentum with key players being brought on board.

“I asked Emily if she knew where we could host meet-ups and she was able to provide a space at her employer with West Monroe Partners, located downtown; within one of West Monroe Partner’s training center. At that time, there was maybe 12 members in the Meetup group. After nearly two years of consistent meetups, the Technology for Women Meetup Group (T4W) has since grown to over 400 members,” Hamilton said.

Bichler attended tracks during the conference as a means of enhancing her circle of influence.

“I’m here to connect and build a community to continue these important conversations,” Bichler said.

Hamilton spearheaded initiatives prior to T4W, most notably the Chicago WordPress Meetup Group, Chicago Blog Week and successfully launched a one-day WordPress workshop born of the Chicago WordPress Meetup Group that he still organizes today. Hamilton’s initiatives have successfully trained dozens upon dozens of WordPress users and other aspiring bloggers.

Uplift conference tracks
Ugochi Acholonu – a Research Scientist for the Digital Youth Network at DePaul University – led the session Intentionally Designing Opportunities to increase Diversity in STEM Communities. Acholonu provided research on the obstacles underrepresented youth face in locating STEM learning opportunities. Acholonu also shared the types of barriers underrepresented youth face, as well as the approach Digital Youth Network takes in designing learning opportunities that are inviting to diverse youth. Opportunities include online challenges, as well as technology-focused programs.

When asked how minorities and girls can be guaranteed access to the necessary programs within their communities, Acholonu said it takes a village to raise a child.

“Microsoft internships have always been word-of-mouth. They shouldn’t be. From administrator, to community posting, to parent – opportunities like these should be visible.”

Justin Shiffman, Uplift event sponsor, as well as founder and CEO of NextTier Education – a reimagining-of-the-college-application-process solutions provider for aspiring college students as well as the high school administrators who prepare them. Shiffman’s track, Diversity for Building Consumer Products provided content on the importance of building diversity within teams to provide products and solutions that appeal to diverse markets.

The track Intersectionality (the idea that a person’s experiences are influenced by a multitude of factors, e.g., race, gender, social class, sexuality, etc.), was led by Student Loan 411 LLC COO Ce Cole Dillon. The effects of discrimination within the workforce and how to navigate through them were discussed at great length.

“People facing discrimination show up for work not feeling like their whole selves. It’s like they’re holding their breath. They can’t breathe and their peers and supervisors can clearly see that – they just don’t know why,” Cole Dillon said.

“It’s ok to leave that type of environment. It’s not your job nor your concern to fix it, especially when you see people who look like you holding their breath. That’s not the environment for you,” she added.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.