Women's voices are vital in technological development. Over the next few months, we will be highlighting women from diverse backgrounds as they share about their experiences in the tech industry. For the beginning of this series, we will focus on five women who were part of a panel at SAS headquarters:
The panel, comprised of SAS employees, provided a platform to discuss personal stories of resilience and perseverance with 8th and 10th graders from Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy. Moderated by Dharmita Lutz, a Principal Software Performance Engineer, the discussion encouraged students to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. The panelists noted that their journeys have not been simple or straightforward, often requiring changes in degree, career and life paths to get to the successful positions they are in today.
Lessons from women leaders in tech
One of the standout stories came from Christy Jacobs, a Senior Briefing Program Specialist, who highlighted the struggle of being nontechnical in a technical company. She explained how gaining self-confidence has allowed her to thrive in her role and realize her value. She advised everyone to remember that their work is valuable and ensure it's being recognized and appreciated by their workplace.
Jacquie Goyena, a manager in User Experience Design, explained how she navigated stereotypes and biases, emphasizing the importance of self-belief and resilience in the face of adversity. She also talked about how hard it is to be respected and properly recognized in a field where so many people are different than her, whether that be by gender, race or personality. She highlighted how as a woman in a technical field not only do you have to "work twice as hard, have data to back up everything you do and communicate well." Goyena ended with the message that "being confident in what you know is a powerful tool and allows you to stick up for yourself when other people try to diminish your value."
Mandy Chambers, a Principal Test Engineer, reminded everyone of the power of taking risks and exploring new opportunities. Her journey from feeling stuck in her position to taking a leap and applying for a new role served as a testament to the importance of embracing change.
Toshiba Burns-Johnson, a Senior Technical Writer, shared her poignant story of growing up in a small town, facing racism and bullying and the struggle to find belonging without compromising her identity. She discussed the many different roles she had throughout her career before she found her place in technical writing before sharing a powerful message.
"Belonging is the opposite of fitting in. Everyone wants to belong somewhere and if you must change who you are just to fit into the crowd, that is not belonging," Burns-Johnson said. "No one should settle for just fitting in. People should strive to find a workplace where they feel like they belong and are accepted and valued without changing who they are.”
The future of women in tech
In a world where diversity and inclusion are increasingly valued, the stories shared by these women serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Their resilience, determination and unwavering commitment to pursuing their dreams despite obstacles serve as a reminder that diversity drives innovation and progress in the tech industry.
Reflecting on the insights shared during this panel discussion, remember the importance of supporting and empowering women in tech and creating an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.