By Lee Porter
DENVER — Five hundred and fifty Colorado women — all engaged in technology – learned how to cope and thrive in the male-dominated industry during the Women in Tech Conference presented by the Colorado Technology Association on June 13.
The event, held at the Denver Botanical Center’s Chatfield facility, offered insight, inspiration and networking to those attending.
Barbara Mowry, CEO of Gore Creek Advisors and chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said Colorado is well-positioned for starting a tech business.
“The Fed has identified Colorado as the state coming out of the recession faster than any other state,” Mowry said. “Its universities are models of tech transfer, despite the fact that federal R&D funding for research has dropped precipitously since the mid-1960’s from 2 percent of GDP to .8 percent.”
Katherine Nelson of RedKatalyst Consulting encouraged the audience to pursue entrepreneurship even within the companies they work for.
Nelson regaled attendees with tales of her ”intra-preneurship” in the airline industry, where she pioneered frequent flyer programs and created a company within a company devoted to innovation. Her flouting of bureaucracy created value for her employer while it allowed her to do what she did best, making her own opportunities, she said.
Making one’s own opportunities was a theme of the event, along with a strong current of devotion to career that required sacrifices of family and difficult prioritizations.
“I hate the concept of work-life balance, because it implies that you can have it,” said Nelson. “Life stuff—it’s about focus and priorities. You have to decide what’s important to you.”
Other speakers chimed in as setting one’s own priorities and being true to one’s self was clearly on the minds of both the presenters and the audience.
Key differences in female-vs.-male-style in managing was a key focus of the discussion.
“If you don’t have butterflies in your stomach all the time, then you have settled,” said Nancy Phillips, CEO and founder of ViaWest.
Trish Jones, principal of eMentor Connect and former Chief Emerging Officer for Turner Broadcasting, agreed. “You’re falling behind if you’re not outside your comfort zone every day,” she said.
Afternoon discussions focused around “The Confidence Gap,” an article by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman that appeared in April’s Atlantic Monthly.
The article reveals what women already know: It’s not just that we need to be better than our male counterparts to succeed, but that “Our experience suggests that the power centers of this nation are zones of female self-doubt—that is, when they include women at all.”
“If I could change one thing about the world,” Philips said, “I would have women possess authentic confidence.”
“Replace niggling doubt with a confident angel,” added Jones.
Kathy Polizzi, senior engineering director at Google, recounted her own experience: “As my confidence grew, there was a virtuous cycle that opened doors, and as a female engineering leader, I became a person everyone wanted.”
Speakers urged audience members to avail themselves of NCWIT resources. The National Center for Women and Information Technology is a Boulder-based nonprofit with more than 500 corporations, organizations, institutions, agencies and non-profits working to increase women’s participation in technology and computing.
Jane Miller, interim president of the Unreasonable Institute, and former CEO of Rudi’s — which sold to Hain/Celestial Seasonings last April for over $60 Million — regaled the audience with her own experiences and her tongue-in-cheek book “Sleep Your Way to the Top *and Other Myths About Business Success.”
The book, released in May, is a guidebook for millennials on how to make it to the top. Miller’s funny and irreverent style, coupled with her C-level experience at PepsiCo, Heinz and others, gives her a unique perspective.
Sleep Your Way to the Top is billed as the go-to guide for grads, pre-grads and new execs, showing where it’s easy to get tripped up and how to make it past the pitfalls on the way to the corner office.
The Women in Technology event was sponsored by Comcast, CenturyLink, Stern&Curray,LLC, Viawest, Digital Globe, and Compri.