On July 29th, 2005, NCWIT Board member Avis Yates Rivers and I went to visit the Vanguard Group in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Deb Denis, who is responsible for IT diversity within Vanguard, had arranged for our visit to talk to over 50 IT managers concerning the declining number of girls and women interested in IT.
I picked Avis up at her house in New Jersey and we drove the two hours over to Pennsylvania. As we drove, we talked about many things — how far NCWIT has come over the past year, thanks to the hard work of many many people across the country; how much more there is to do; the things we understand about how to make progress on this issue, and the things we don’t yet grasp.
We talked about our need to be in constant action, and yet launch research programs to inform our action; and our need to reach even more people and corporations. Avis had packed us some food to eat but we didn’t touch it — we were talking and laughing too much. It was great fun.
Vanguard welcomed us with open arms. The group of 50 or so IT managers and executives was interested and interactive. We talked about innovation, about global competitiveness, and about the readiness of our future technical workforce. While the situation is bleak for computing and IT in general, we discussed how really discouraging it is concerning girls and women’s participation. What can companies do, they asked? How can they help with both the systemic issues and issues specific to their own companies?
Tim Buckley, their CIO, was in the meeting and also at lunch with us afterwards. It’s clear that this management team “gets it.” (Vanguard recently was selected one of Computerworld’s best workplaces for IT professionals, and has received similar accolades from Fortune and Essence magazines for its diverse workforce and workplace culture.) The day marked a great exchange, one we will enter into with many more companies in the near future.
As we drove back to New Jersey I was feeling thankful that Avis really knows her way around those back roads — had I been alone, I surely would have become lost. So too, NCWIT will succeed in part because it is team effort, one that brings together the strengths and experience of so many people for a single, important issue.
As we talk to businesses and exchange thoughts and concerns about innovation, diversity, and the strength of America’s future IT workforce, it’s invigorating to know that we share a destination. We look forward to navigating the road ahead with them.
Lucy Sanders is Co-founder and CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and she likes to drive, even if she does get lost once in a while.