The University of Mississippi teamed up with multinational software corporation Systems, Applications and Products to create a “Women in Technology” forum to showcase eight women who are making names for themselves in the technology industry.
Kathy Gates, UM chief information officer of information technology, teamed with Regina Kunkle, national vice president at SAP, to bring this event to the University. Gates said she fell into the technology field by accident, which is why she wants young women to see the opportunities out there.
“The reality is that every modern company, organization and institution has a strong technology component,” Gates said. “This will be the future for current students, and they need to be aware.”
The event will take place from 2:45 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 31 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom of the Inn at Ole Miss.
UM journalism professor Cynthia Joyce will be moderating the event. Joyce said the technology field is the fastest-growing job sector –two times faster than the national average – but women are only filling a quarter of those roles.
“This is an opportunity to pull out some of these leading women to say ‘Here is the truth about it,’” Joyce said. “Here are the advantages and disadvantages to being in this field.”
Joyce said the biggest challenge for her will be getting each panelist’s point across in the allotted time. To ensure the audience gets all their questions answered, registered audience members were asked to send potential questions prior to the conference.
The questions range from asking about the panelists’ journeys in their careers to the disadvantages of being women in fields of technology.
According to Joyce, women are moving away from careers and degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which has resulted in male-dominated computer science programs.
Organizers said they hope the conference will be an introduction to the women and their experiences and expertise, as well as a networking opportunity for students.
Both Gates and Joyce say they agree the panel will showcase a group of seasoned women who found a way to balance their professional and personal lives.
“The goal of the event is to encourage college-aged women to pursue a well-rounded curriculum in their studies that includes technology introduction,” Gates said.
More than 100 UM students have registered to attend the Women in Technology forum. Registration is free and the window is still open.
– Claire Harper