Women leading women in technology

by Lauren Melcher

On Tuesday evening, November 29, over 200 women gathered at the latest Brave New Workshop location in downtown Minneapolis to launch a new association: Women Leading in Technology (WLiT). Run by a volunteer steering committee and with the support of MHTA, its board, and community sponsors, the group aims to be an open and supportive community for the advancement of women in technology leadership positions in Minnesota.

In the weeks before the launch event, buzz about the event reached beyond the high-tech community to healthcare, consulting and marketing professionals. Over 240 registered for the launch party, which included a presentation on innovation and culture by Dr. Jacqueline Byrd of Creatrix, Inc.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of MHTA, says that when she was in politics she did not think she could find a work environment where there were fewer women. “That was until I attended a high tech event and when I went to the women’s restroom, the lights turned on because no one had been in there recently.” It was a light bulb moment for her, too.

“We’re seeing a hunger for women to connect in this space – women who have been on the leading edge of the technology industry to share their learnings with other women and help them succeed. Any time you see a field where there’s a need for that community-building around identity to grow in the field, it’s important to help people program a space around that,” says Kelliher. “Individual companies have their own great groups, but what is missing is cross-pollination across groups – and that is a place where MHTA can help.”

Amanda Downs, enterprise account executive at EMC Corporation and WLiT co-chair, introduced the principles of the association, which she said “is still in the formation stage.” At the core will be personal networking, professional development training and a focus on advancing all women in technology.

“So far, there is nothing that we have ruled out,” explained Kelliher before the event. “We want to be very organic and authentic to the Minnesota community. So we’re open to how it develops.”

WLiT is currently supported by MHTA and five sponsors: Brave New Workshop, EMC, Comcast Business Class, Creatrix and QwikCast.