Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Today is an international celebration of women in technology and science.
As my colleague Craig Cmehil has rightly pointed out in What’s So Special About March 24th, 2010?, we shouldn’t wait for an annual event to let special individuals know that their contributions are appreciated. Having said that, if it weren’t for Ada Lovelace Day, I would still be oblivious to the reality that while the need for technology professionals is growing, the number of women entering the field is declining, and many of those already in technical jobs are leaving. Yet studies have proven that organizational financial performance and innovation improves when diversity is increased.
Something To Consider
The following data points come from the paper Women in IT: The Facts, by Catherine Ashcraft, Ph.D. and Sarah Blithe, National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT):
- Technical innovation will play a critical role in virtually every sector of the U.S. and global economy.
- Computer professionals rank among the Top 10 fastest-growing occupations.
- If current trends continue, by 2016 the information technology industry will only be able to fill half of its available jobs.
- While interest in computing is declining among all potential candidates, the decline is more significant among women.
- Not only is the industry failing to attract new talent, it is also losing talent already interested in technology.
- Teams comprising men and women produced the most frequently cited patents – with citation rates that were 26 to 42 percent higher than the norm for similar patents (i.e. diversity promotes innovation).
- Companies with the highest representation of women in their senior management teams had a 35 percent higher return on equity and a 34 percent higher return to shareholders.
A Sense of Community
Among the good and productive solutions that have been identified to address this disparity, I really believe that fostering community is an important way to encourage more women to enter (and remain in) the technology field. Specialized “women in tech” industry groups have sprung up in response to this need, and we can do more to promote a sense of community within our organizations as well.
So it is in the spirit of “community” that I’d like to recognize a few SAP colleagues who exemplify this theme for me.
Inspirational Women in Tech
As a community advocate with the SAP Community Network, Marilyn educates, enables and encourages new participants, contributes actively, and links people to one another and to interesting ideas so that the whole community can thrive. She was aptly described as a “super-connector” in a recent Huffington Post article. Marilyn is a wonderful collaborator and mentor who cares deeply about communities – both physical and virtual.
I admire Sue because she combines extensive knowledge of enterprise software with a comfortable presentation style, making her a very cool woman in tech and a wonderful role model. A gifted Solutions Consultant, Sue has a way of engaging and interacting that really connects with clients and colleagues alike. It’s very difficult to take something as complex as enterprise software and simplify the message so that it resonates with the audience, but this is Sue’s special talent.
Sue creates her own “community” of evangelists, because her passion is infectious, she develops innovative solutions, she connects people, and she’s always there to help. She’s sort of like a Blackberry: always on, always connected.
I’ve only just met Moya (and only virtually), but I’d like to recognize her today for two reasons. The first is that she is an innovator, and she recently helped facilitate a new level of community interaction internally at SAP by providing a great technology solution for employees. The second reason is that it was through her active participation in our online communities that I found out about this great opportunity.
I wish all women in technology a very good day.