ACT-W National: More than just a ‘women in tech’ networking event

Author : Jackie Blundell, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

Last month, ChickTech hosted its first ACT-W National conference to continue its mission of accelerating the careers of women in technology and to create more women leaders across the industry. The three days were filled with speaking sessions and workshops focused on career development, leadership, diversity, and technology. The event was supported by the generous contributions of over 30 partners, including the likes of Google, Nintendo, T Mobile, and more.

A slew of inspirational speakers took to the stage to tackle the challenges women are facing in the technology sector today. ChickTech’s very own CEO and founder, Janice Levenhagen-Seeley, opened the event with her presentation, “Winning Together,” where she discussed how she overcame her experiences with bullying, harassment and discrimination to help uplift other women and empower them to be successful. Other keynote speakers, such as Lilian Chen and Nikita Mitchell, discussed how their personal experiences have motived their career trajectories and shared insights from their individual pursuits of success.

The next generation of women in tech

While many accomplished, inspiring women (and men!) presented at ACT-W to share their thoughts and to open discussions on challenging topics, there was one presentation that made attendees especially optimistic about the future of women in tech. Elisabelle Gonzalez, who is a sophomore at Oregon State University, stepped on stage to give an impromptu presentation where she shared her perspective as a young woman trying to make it in a male-dominated major at her university.

Elisabelle became involved in ChickTech as a freshman in high school when her advisor registered her for one of the high school programs. Although she was unsure about getting involved, she attended the workshop because she knew her school didn’t have the budget to offer her this kind of opportunity. She was nervous about going alone, but soon learned there was a supportive community at each event and quickly made friends. She continued to attend workshops throughout high school, and her involvement in the organization influenced her decision to study civil engineering in college.

After dealing with doubt and discrimination in her male-dominated classes, she often finds support in her ChickTech community. After a long day, she can go to a group meet-up to share her frustrations and struggles with a group of peers who understand exactly what she’s going through. Before becoming involved in ChickTech, Elisabelle had no intention of pursuing a technology career and originally intended on studying music. Now in her second year of college, she’s become a leader in the ChickTech Corvallis chapter and hopes to inspire the next generation of girls to take a leap of faith and get involved.

Even though being a woman in a technology field can come with a host of obstacles, she has this simple advice for others unsure about entering the tech workforce: “It’s OKAY to be nervous and scared. Chances are, everyone else is, too. You don’t need to know everything about the technology career you’re trying to pursue because once you get to college you realize no one knows what they’re doing.” Her thoughts echo what ChickTech wholeheartedly believes: don’t let intimidation get the best of you.

Stories like Elisabelle’s underscore the importance of having a support group to reassure your path and to share your struggles with. Not only has Elisabelle pursued a major she wouldn’t have otherwise considered, but she’s also finding unexpected opportunities through her participation in ChickTech. As a young adult, she knows she’s working towards a brighter future and feels confident in her ability to put herself out there to find a fulfilling career.

If you’d like to meet inspiring women like Elisabelle, register to participate in one of ChickTech’s upcoming ACT-W regional events: http://www.act-w.org/.

Development