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