Creating a Legacy by Harnessing the Power of Women in IT
I attended my first Women’s Legacy Summit hosted by Executive Alliance this month. The specific theme of the event was ‘Reimagine the Future and Elevate the Dialogue’ and the role women play in that scenario. The attendees were a broad range of executive leaders representing healthcare, hospitality, consumer products, education, and the federal government. With an acumen for security, privacy, development, engineering, and innovation, there was no mistaking this was an assembly of experts dedicated to being creative change-agents and business partners in their chosen industries. We came together to share innovative best-practices and develop solutions while fostering camaraderie and setting the stage for the future. Surrounded by intelligent, dedicated, and successful women, I felt that there is no doubt our respective companies are in excellent hands and that we are in need of more women of this caliber in technology.
When you bring together a diverse group of technology professionals, you quickly find we are seeking solutions to similar problems. Big Data ROI is not just an issue faced in healthcare and consumer-driven product development does not solely belong to restaurant conglomerates. In fact, discussing how to best align the role of IT in business innovation sparks both healthy debate and cross-industry problem solving. The move toward the consumerism-of-everything model is as relevant in choosing where to dine as it is in selecting where to receive healthcare or buy life insurance.
The summit was rich in presentations covering topics such as transformation, leadership challenges, and effectiveness. This was not a group assembled to tell everyone how smart they are. It was a group assembled to share their learnings from both successes and failures in an environment where camaraderie trumped showmanship. These uniquely talented women came together to strengthen their business, leadership, and industry expertise. It is a testament to the agenda culled by Mary Lou Heastings, CEO of Executive Alliance and her focus of ‘creating a national community of IT executives across the U.S.’
Highlights from the summit included:
- IT Effectiveness – Getting More out of Your Organization by Patti White, founder and president of SAGE Insights. As a senior leader with over 30 years of experience, she shared the importance of choosing transformation over status quo, thinking beyond technology boundaries, and that change is tied to both emotions and intellect. She emphasized that IT is the only line of business that has a complete view of the entire enterprise. Her presentation discussed how to leverage that scope of vision in aligning strategies to most effectively grow the business and be integral in its success.
- Data Privacy and Security – An Insider’s View by Mary Dickerson, Chief Information Security Officer at the University of Houston. As a seasoned information security expert (and volunteer fire fighter!), Mary discussed the importance of sharing strategy solutions versus technology solutions and integrating information security into your overall risk management program. She also noted ensuring that your organization has security viewed as a solution-provider.
Inevitably, in each of our networking and round table discussions, we turned to the future of IT in terms of talent and the relatively low number of women in our field. It is imperative we seek opportunities to involve younger women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Many are involved in local STEM initiatives and actively seek to bring their knowledge to education venues of all ages. There is a newer focus on including the fine art and business aspect of technology to ensure youth have the writing, presentation, and operational skills it takes to run a profitable company.
Taking the time to attend carefully crafted events such as the Women’s Legacy Summit is imperative to remain active and engaged as a leader. My CEO is famous for saying, ‘Nobody learns anything by staying home.’ It is our responsibility as leaders to have a constant desire to be learning about our industry and encouraging those around us to do the same. From my experience at this event, I am optimistic about the future of IT and the legacy women are creating by harnessing their expertise and growing the leaders of tomorrow. I am already looking forward to next one. Will you join me?