November 28th at the Venetian in Las Vegas, AWS re:INVENT held an important session that could shape the future of technology. The sold-out session, SHE POWERS TECH: Women Supporting Women in Tech, filled a ballroom with 500 women in technology and a few men who were interested in the topic. The impressive line-up of speakers included women in a wide variety of technological fields spanning automotive engineering to technology in fashion.
Sandy Carter, Vice President of Amazon Web Services, spoke about the importance of women supporting women in technology. AWS re:INVENT attracts 45,000 attendees, and while the percentage of women in that group is growing, the clear majority is male. Carter encouraged women to support other women in technology by recruiting and training qualified female candidates, and including female employees equally in relevant business conversations and decisions.
Anina Net, CEO of 360Fashion, spoke about integrating technology into fashion. She has engineered a wide variety of products including a wallet with a built-in phone battery, a hack-proof laptop case and a ring capable of signaling police for help if a woman is the victim of a violent attack. Net discussed the challenges she faced working in both engineering and fashion. She overcame prejudices on both sides to build a successful company that incorporates the latest in technology in beautiful, wearable fashion.
Anne-Jeanette Peterson, Enterprise Architect with Capital One, discussed her passion for engineering. Peterson authored a blog that went viral entitled, I’m an Engineer, Not a Woman Engineer. She shared that she was one of the first women to earn an AWS certification. She was surprised that people were happy for her not because she had earned the certification, but because she was a woman. Peterson strives for equality, not special treatment. She spoke about the value of instilling a sense in our young woman that they can do anything. Peterson shared one of her father’s favorite quotes with the group: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
Catherine Gulsvig Wood, Senior Manager, Cloud Platform, with Accenture, pointed out: “Women have a lot of characteristics that are sorely needed in IT today. Technology is not about the code, it’s about the people who write the code. The biggest challenges in IT today are not technical, they are social.”
Wood went on to suggest that we solve the problems in technology today by changing the discussion: “Change the discussion so the people who need the technology are leading the discussion instead of the people making the technology.” This is how we solve the social problems technology is facing.
Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Amazon Web Services, Public Sector, closed out the event with an inspirational message for all who attended. Carlson spoke about how inspired she was to see the growth and change that had already happened for women in technology, but noted how much farther we had to go. She challenged the group to drive change by supporting other women in technology, and asked them to make their presence known at this conference by tweeting under #wepowertech. Carlson offered every woman in the room the opportunity to further their professional career by becoming AWS certified at no cost. She challenged the group to give their feedback and instigate change by attending events like this one and to inspire other women to do the same.