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A Technical Woman’s Journey: Dr. Telle Whitney, CEO Anita Borg Institute

From the moment I stepped into  my first Computer Science class, with its punch cards, and using a language called COBOL, I was hooked on the possibilities of Computing.     School provided the background for my first job programming for the Israeli Army, where the work made a difference in people’s lives.   In g

From the moment I stepped into  my first Computer Science class, with its punch cards, and using a language called COBOL, I was hooked on the possibilities of Computing.     School provided the background for my first job programming for the Israeli Army, where the work made a difference in people’s lives.   In graduate school we worked with some of the best minds in the world, but they were all men, and yes it was an incredible heady and innovative time, but there was something missing.      As a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, I found satisfaction in seeing the designs we created being used to create new products, such as Voice over IP.    But there were rarely other women.        

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Six years ago I moved from high tech to leading the non-profit Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, where we work with industry and academia to recruit, retain and advance technical women.   This is the best job in the world!! Within the ABI community you hear how a student took new information from  our annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, and decided to go to graduate school.   I see how our work impacts the thinking of the executives we work with, when I hear from them the realization that perhaps their organization isn’t viewed as a meritocracy by all of their employees.   I have the chance to see the impact we have on thousands of women who participate in our event, in person or virtually on the web.  

 

But all too often, there are well intentioned leaders who don’t understand the programs that really can have impact on their workforce – to retain and advance all of their top achievers, including the women.    Often I talk to people who don’t understand their own subtle biases (yes we all have them, I certainly run smack into mine occasionally).   

 

In this blog, working with Caroline Simard, our research director, it is our plan to provide you with the data – what are the technical women saying, what do they want?  We will also provide examples of what works, drawing on the experience of companies who are successful at making changes, and talking to women who are having an impact on their environment.    It is critical to the success of the next generation, for true innovation to occur.   I believe passionately that an important step is for women to have a seat at the table creating the technology of tomorrow.