When WITI (Women in Technology Inc.) was created in 1989, there was no online social media and the Internet had not yet evolved into a worldwide tool for businesses, citizens, organizations and governments.
The lack of such tools back then was one of the reasons that WITI was formed by its founder, Carolyn Leighton—so that women in IT could have a place to gather, learn from each other and move themselves forward in an industry led largely by men.
And now as WITI gathers June 1 through June 3 in Santa Clara, Calif., for its 20th annual Women in Technology Summit, the group will also celebrate its 25th anniversary as an organization that continues to move its mission forward.
“Our passion has always been, at the core, women in technology,” Tracie Ponder, a Summit adviser for WITI for the last 10 years, told eWEEK. “Women came first for WITI, and then the technology piece became the core that brings all the women together.”
The group continues to empower women today just as technology itself has continued to evolve, she said. “I think that’s pretty significant for us. Many IT companies have tanked in the last 25 years, but WITI is still here. We really kind of made it through the storm, and you can see where women are today in many major Fortune 500 corporations.”
One of WITI’s main accomplishments for its members is that the group provides a supportive and powerful place where women in IT can get together and network with each other, said Ponder. “Whether you are an entrepreneur or you are in corporate America, you have to be connected. You may be looking for a job, and it may not be advertised. When you get people together who have different experiences, you get knowledge.”
By bringing members together, it empowers them all and provides mentorship and more, she said.
“Back in the day, women in IT were sometimes fighting each other for the positions that were out there,” said Ponder. “Today it is different. Women are coming together and supporting each other. That’s what we bring.”
WITI is also there for women in IT who are looking for new challenges, she said. “Some people don’t know where to take their careers; they feel like they are hitting a wall. Women can get marginalized. Here they can find out how they can they reinvent themselves.”
Recently, WITI began working with large companies, such as IBM, GEICO, EMC, AT&T and ADP, to set up WITI microsites within the companies to serve women employees who want to connect with other women in IT, said Ponder. “What we’re doing is encouraging companies that if they don’t have time to create this content and do all this stuff, that we can come in and offer them this turnkey solution.”
The upcoming WITI Summit will be a showcase for all of these things, said Ponder. The conference will include special events, roundtable discussions, keynotes, meet-and-greets, networking, product exhibits and more. Also featured will be a career fair in conjunction with JobTarget. Much of the content from the Summit will be live-streamed for WITI members.
Scheduled speakers for the event include Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX; Sandy Carter, the general manager of ecosystem development and social business evangelist for IBM; Kim Polese, the chairman of ClearStreet; Guy Kawasaki, the chief evangelist at Canva; and Abbie Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Media.
The 19th annual WITI Hall of Fame dinner and awards ceremony will also be held at the event on June 2 as the group presents awards to key leaders in science and technology.