Bringing women to the forefront in technology

This article is featured courtesy of Jamie Holter, Communications Manager, Department of Information Technology

dianaIn honor of International Women’s Day (March 8), meet Diana Chism, King County IT for Production Operations. She’s been working in IT with the County for 26 years, yet still considers herself growing and learning. She has advice for women entering the tech world.

Sit AT the table!

“When you are invited to a meeting, have a seat at the table, literally! Women tend to sit along the outside and give men the seat closest to the center of power. Don’t do that! Your ideas and your expertise is valued. You bring something they don’t.”

Embrace YOUR skills

“At one of my first performance appraisals, I was told I was “too soft” and “not aggressive enough”. These were male characteristics. I didn’t want to be a man. I have skills as a woman that are useful to IT. I didn’t have to be aggressive.”

“That’s what’s changed. We are valued for who we are and what we contribute. I have younger women on my team who are completely different from me when I first started as a bright-eyed coder.”

IT Director Bill Kehoe agrees. “In my experience, a diverse team is a better team. I have probably the best team I’ve ever had right now. It’s split right down the middle.”

Fail forward

“Be confident, take risks, fail,” she continued.  “Men do it, but women are expected to be perfect. Studies have shown that men who apply for jobs have only 60 percent of the skill set, and they still apply. Women? We feel like we have to be 100 percent qualified before we apply.” She cites the recent TedTalk “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.”

Find a mentor

What’s changing? Coaching and mentoring opportunities. Enter a new Seattle non-profit called “Leading Women in Technology”. The organization was born in Silicon Valley – a traditionally inhospitable place for women in tech – and has just expanded to New York and Seattle. More than a dozen King County IT women have joined. Women from every industry in Seattle – lawyers, advertising, IT, public and private sector – are part of the organization. They meet to learn new skills, and coach and mentor each other.

Pay equity

As for pay equity. At King County, we’re really close. A check with our IT HR Department found women make an average of $48.76/hour while men make $50.04/hour. The ratio of female to male employees is 32 percent to 78 percent which is about average for IT.  Kehoe, IT Director, would still like to change that and said of this story, “Put a link to our hiring page in there, would you?”