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Advice from Women in Technology at GWB

Find a mentor, always keep learning.

September 21, 2016

By: Ann Nachtigal

We asked Aron Larson, Technology Manager; Liz Ewald, Technology Supervisor; and Gail Burke, System Administrator to share their experiences and advice for others looking for equal opportunity.
 

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGER CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?

Larson: I would say one of a woman’s bigger challenges is herself. Coming into a group where you are outnumbered makes most people a little unsure of themselves, when the reality is there are no differences just different ideas.
 

Ewald: As I see it, the technology challenges are similar for both men and women in the world of IT: namely, keeping up with constant change as it pertains to equipment, security, apps, storage, a dynamic work force, staying visionary, while controlling costs and risk, and communicating in a language that makes sense and is understandable to corporate staff and executive boards, etc.

IT is a 24/7/365 commitment, which is not always conducive to everyone’s idea of work/family life balance. However, Great Western Bank does a nice job of allowing flexibility. While IT is still primarily a male dominated field, 27% of Great Western Bank’s IT Department is female and turnover has been minimal.

We have a great team and overall work really well together. I am proud to be a part of it.
 

Burke: Most women are sadly in the minority in the IT arena. A strong backbone helps when you are outnumbered walking into the room. Education and the access to additional learning activities can make it easier for your voice to be heard. Some additional education might need to be on your own time but in the end, it will make a difference in how you are perceived.

 

HOW CAN WE RECRUIT AND RETAIN WOMEN IN STEM CAREERS?

Larson: I think with the Internet and the ability to actually do the research of any career is leagues ahead of what I had. If companies want to recruit more women in these positions more of them should offer some hiring incentives or scholarships based on certain STEM degrees for women.

As far as retaining women there needs to be a flexible work life balance with family and improved benefits around leave for both parents.
 

Ewald: Promote well. Reward well. A well matched mentorship is invaluable for those wanting to succeed and move up. We need to have existing managers that are willing to champion and promote deserving female talent.
 

Burke: Mentoring, educational conferences, leadership councils, women in business contacts. Get your networking skills honed. Make the place of employment THE best place you can to keep quality staff on board.

 
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR OTHER WOMEN SEEKING A CAREER IN TECHNOLOGY?

Larson: If I could go back in time I would tell myself these three things: Find a mentor whether that is female or male, join a technology forum\group\club that interests you, and network with those in your area inside and outside of your company.
 

Ewald: Be positive and confident, contribute, and always keep learning. Develop good leadership skills, network with others in your field, be a mentor when the opportunity arises, and promote STEM paths with the younger generation.
 

Burke: Keep learning and become the mentor that you wanted when starting out. We can all learn from each other. We all have our strengths to build on. As a friend of mine says – “Keep on swimming”

 

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