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Have we made any progress with women in tech? Not much

Eight years ago, I attended a conference (remember doing that in person?) and had a chance to hear from some pretty amazing speakers, many of them women. The conference, Strangeloop, was notable for the number of women and people of color in tech who were represented, whose contributions we rarely hear about and whose voices are often excluded. I happened upon the piece that I wrote after that conference in 2013 and decided to ask the women I interviewed back then if they have more recent experiences that they would like to share with my readers.

Sarah Dutkiewicz is the owner of her one-woman Cleveland Tech Consulting, working as a contract programmer mainly in Azure. “I couldn’t have predicted this path I took over that time,” she wrote to me in response to my query. “I am still in tech and still paving roads and making way for others.” I shared with her this story from a few months ago that spoke to silencing women in tech, one tweet at a time. “I understand the pain that these women are describing. I have confidence issues and I am glad that I have supportive and encouraging teammates now.” She agreed with that article’s point about all the headaches women have with negative online comments, and how we all need to speak up when we see women being mansplained or shouted down by online trolls.

Some of the conclusions that I drew in 2013 still hold fast today: “Having mentors of different races, genders, ages mean there are so many life lessons to learn, and we all can learn from each other,” said Dutkiewicz. She mentioned a quote from Condi Rice about how you don’t have to have mentors who look like you and are in your exact field. Dutkiewicz believes that collaboration is extremely important. “That collaboration between mentor and mentee helps not only the mentee to learn, but also nourishes the mentor’s need to help grow others.  And if they have different backgrounds, it helps to learn from each other’s perspectives as well,” which is consistent with what she said eight years ago.

Over the past eight years, more women have moved up the corporate ladder in terms of experience and authority. But that reality hasn’t filtered into many men in tech, who still think women occupy entry-level positions. Dutkiewicz wrote about many men who think she is in some entry-level position, often downplaying her expertise. “I’m now teaching folks at the 300 and 400 programming levels!”

Clearly, we still have a lot of work ahead. My original article in 2013 contains several valid suggestions that are still useful today for everyone in tech. Take a moment, follow some people on Twitter who don’t look like you and widen your focus and perspective.

David Strom

David Strom

David Strom is one of the leading experts on network and Internet technologies and has written and spoken extensively on topics such as IT security, VOIP, convergence, email, cloud computing, network management, Internet applications, wireless and Web services for more than 30 years. He has held several editorial management positions, including Editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, Digital Landing.com, and Tom's Hardware.com. He currently writes for IBM's SecurityIntelligence.com, HPE's Enterprise.Nxt, blogs for RSA and Kaspersky and CSOonline.com and has contributed opinion columns, reviews, feature stories and analyses to ITworld.com, TechTarget.com, Internet.com, Network World, Infoworld, Computerworld, Small Business Computing, c|net and news.com, eWeek, Baseline Magazine, PC Week, PC World, PC Magazine and more. David has created numerous print and web publications, built several hands-on IT test labs, curated various email newsletters, blogged extensively about a wide variety of IT business topics, spoken at IT business conferences, written thousands of magazine articles and published two books on computer networking. He is the author of two books: Internet Messaging, which he co-authored with Marshall T. Rose and Home Networking Survival Guide. David also publishes Web Informant and is the creator of an innovative series of video screencast product reviews of enterprise IT products that can be found on Webinformant.tv and syndicated to various other Web sites. He has also appeared on the Fox TV News Network, NPR's Science Friday radio program, ABC-TV's World News Tonight and CBS-TV's Up to the Minute news broadcasts.

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