Women in Government and Education and Global Forum 2010 Conclusion

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The last session of Global Forum 2010 also included female speakers from the Public Sector.  Kathleen Turco of GSA, who had also been a panelist at the Collaborative eProcurement session, stated that her entire career has been in the Federal government.  She has worked for 4 American federal government agencies and in most of these positions, she was the first woman to fill it.   She obtained these positions because she sought advice and did mentoring.  As a strong woman, Turco in turn likes to hire strong women!

Dr. Rachelle Heller of GWU, the host institution, jokingly thanked the panelists before her for making all of her points already.  Dr Heller stated that IT is “value and gender-neutral,” and research has shown that women are collaborative, can multi-task, and enjoy networking; IT is supported by these traits.  Furthermore, IT helps women’s voices be heard.  Studies have also been done where the same blogs were published with men’s, women’s, and neutral names (with initials).  Sadly, readers preferred the blogs of male writers over women writers.

In conclusion, chair Thaima Samman and President of the European Network for Women in Leadership, asked the panelists to give a 30 second conclusion.  Some panelists ended with a challenge.  Sharon Numes of IBM asked participants to think of the necessary and scarce resource of water: even if women in developing countries have access to cell phones and the internet, they will not have the time to use such technologies if they must spend have the day fetching water.  Linda Zecher of Microsoft encouraged women and men alike to contact local organizations and become a mentor to young girls.

Thaima Samman, Chair of Women's Innovation and Entrepreneurship session, as well as Kathleen Turco and Melanne Verveer

Women in Technology- Corporations side

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Following an inspiring speech by US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, panelists from corporations such as IBM and Microsoft spoke on their experiences of women in technology and how their companies are contributing to this growth.

Linda Zecher, the corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector, pointed out that women are over 50% of the world’s consumers.  Microsoft, being the consumer business that they are, understands that diversity of ideas, as well as ethnicities, is vital for success and growth in the workplace.  She noted that unfortunately, the number of women studying Computer Science has dropped in recent years.  Studies show that girls drop out of math and science because they feel it isn’t “cool” or experience teachers’ favoritism toward boys in these subject matters.  Zecher went on to explain Microsoft’s Digigirlz program, where mentors talk to girls about the jobs they can have in the IT field.

Sharon Numes, VP Smarter Cities of IBM, started that she has been involved in women in technology for 20 years and that in general, women like to work in areas where they will make a difference.  At IBM, she and colleagues focus on hiring and retaining women at their corporation.  Studies of why women don’t enter the tech/IT fields included perceived barriers.  When polled in 1997, American women said they thought barriers were, in order of importance, “male culture, work-life balance, lack of mentors, and access to key positions.”  In 10 years, women’s priorities have changed and barriers cited were “access to positions, male culture, exclusion from decision makers, and work-life balance.”

Microsoft's Linda Zecher

‘Digital Oxygen’

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That’s what Michael Bartholomew, Director of the European Telecommunications Network Operations Association, called broadband technology during today’s “Broadband: Ready to Invest” panel.

“It is absolutely essential to Europe’s economy and well-being,” he told the crowd. By 2020, he said, all households in Europe should have access to 30 Mbps, and half should be subscribing to 100 Mbps. “The goals are very ambitious, and given the current [economic] situation, it’s very challenging.”

But, Bartholomew said, “talk is cheap, and broadband is expensive.” And helping overcome this problem in the U.S. is Johnathan Adelstein, Rural Utilities Services Program Administrator at the Department of Agriculture. His office oversees the $2.5 billion from President Obama’s American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that is dedicated to deploying broadband networks into lesser-served communities throughout the U.S.

“We are now doing for broadband what we did for electricity so many years ago,” he said. During the next few years, he said these fiber deployment projects will reach 6 million people in 46 states, 350,000 businesses and more than 1 million K-12 children, in addition to healthcare and higher education organizations.

Low income areas are the most targeted with the projects, he said. Still, he noted, large gaps in coverage will remain after the awards are given to communities.

The information and communications sector is a core driver for economic growth and job creation throughout Europe and the U.S.  Gabrielle Gauthey, EVP of Global Government & Public Affairs at Alcatel-Lucent, said government organizations should partner with private telecommunications companies to achieve ubiquitous coverage of high-speed connectivity and to tackle future challenges, such as ensuring low-income areas and older populations are served. Government can also foster new competition through  public-private partnerships, she said.

Driving growth in broadband are mobile devices, said Thomas J. Sugrue , vice president of Government Affairs at T-Mobile USA.  He called the need to open up more spectrum for U.S. telecom providers essential to industry growth. “Spectrum really is the lifeblood” of mobility, he said.

Also at the panel, IBM’s Steven Adler shared the InfoGov Community, which connects IT/ICT officials directly with thought leaders in world-leading enterprises. Learn more about the company’s program by clicking here.

Lastly, some eye-opening figures from Bartholomew: Just 1.2 percent of European households have fiber. In the U.S., that figure is 2.4 percent. And in Japan? 35 percent.