The tech sector has taken its hits in 2001, and maybe that's why female techies seem to be organizing like never before. At least two new Front Range organizations have formed and another is staging a national convention in Denver in June.
The matriarch of the bunch is the Society of Women Engineers. It was started in 1949 and currently has 15,000 members nationwide. The Rocky Mountain Chapter, established in 1954, is hosting this year's convention for the first time since 1976. Jill Tietjen, a tech/engineering author and speaker who runs Technically Speaking LLC out of the Denver Tech Center, is an SWE national past president and the 2001 national conference co-chair.
"Engineering remains the most male-dominated field of any professional career," she said. "In 2000, approximately 20 percent of engineers graduating with undergraduate degrees are women. Overall, less than 10 percent of the engineering workforce is female."
Another group, Colorado Women in Technology (CWIT), was started in 1997. Cara Hart, the current president, explains the need for her organization: "A lot of the way things get done in business, and especially in tech, is through networking. Much of this is still an 'old boys' club.' Eventually, this will transition - we will all see that men and women are capable of working in the tech fields, but we're not there yet. In the meantime, having an 'old girls' club' can pick up some slack."
She added, "One of the reasons joined CWIT in the first place was that it was nice to be in a room full of women whose eyes didn't glaze over when I talked about what I do for a living. There are plenty of women's groups, both social and professional, but I like the added benefit of hanging out with women with whom I can talk shop."
A similar group, started in 1999, is the Denver chapter of Women in Technology International (WITI). Part of a national organization, the local chapter focuses on the area of the Denver Tech Center because, noted Ellen Schulz, regional director, "most of its board members work there."
January marked the startup of another group...