Promoting Women.

Position:Colorado Super Net - Brief Article


Pam Davidson has enjoyed a fine ride in the tech business.

In 1988, she was a divorced mother of two, on welfare, struggling in computer science at CU. Emerging Internet service provider Colorado Super Net offered her a job on the help desk, so she quit school and the dole.

In 1996, she signed on with Boulder-based MapQuest. Two years later, Davidson was system administrator, and her lean years were a memory.

But without a college diploma, she wondered, how long would it last?

"The tech industry is hot, but sooner or later there's going to be a recession. Half the people doing this don't have a degree, and you're going to have to have one if the economy goes," Davidson said. But what degree program, she also wondered, was going to accommodate her 60-hour (minimum) work weeks? Her on-call status? Or her family?

Davidson chose The Women's College at the University of Denver, a school that's about as non-traditional as it gets when it comes to business education.

The oil and gas industry lobbied successfully to create TWC almost 20 years ago as a weekend bachelor's degree program for working women. The school enrolled 70 women the first year. For more than a decade, it offered one degree -- a bachelor's in business administration. In the late 1990s, TWC added degrees in communications and applied computing.

Now TWC enrolls about 500 women every quarter, women who -- with the school's 650 graduates -- are part of a maturing Colorado businesswomen's network.

"They're all working women, most have children, and most of them are juggling more than any human can juggle," said Michele Bloom, TWC's dean. "Ninety-five percent of them are here because they want career advancement. They've gotten clear signals from their employers that their lack of a degree is holding them back."

Carolyn Washburn was a manager at AT&T until she was downsized into an early retirement that wasn't enough to support her family. Her solution? Return to AT&T in the rank-and-file and use the company's tuition benefits to get her degree at TWC.

It took six years, but Washburn is now a customer service manager at Avaya Inc., a Lucent Technologies spin-off with offices in the Denver Metro area, and she credits TWC for more than her second lease in the business world. "It transformed my life," she said. "I found myself becoming more of a risk-taker. I became a leader instead of a follower. I realized I had a...

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