By Yvette C. Hammett
Tampa Tribune, Fla.
More women enroll in college than men — 68 percent versus 63 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet women make up only about a quarter of the tech work force.
Hillsborough County is no exception. Here, there are more than 36,000 jobs identified in STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and women make up just over 25 percent of that workforce. By 2024, STEM related jobs in this area are projected to grow by 17 percent, an incentive to switch things up a bit.
Women in Tech, a free event sponsored by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative, or EDI2, takes place on Monday, March 30, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Seminole Heights Library.
“Young women need to meet role models in these fields. And confidence is another key,” said county Economic Development Director Lindsey Kimball. So, to celebrate Women in History Month, the county opted to highlight some of those local role models at this event, she said.
“Girls are typically intimidated by science and tech,” said Ayesha Hackman, principal and founder of Harman STEM School, a private K-8 Tampa school that focuses on STEM curriculum. “These fields can be lonely if you are the only woman in the work place.”
Hackman and numerous other female members of the local tech community will work to bust through that wall of intimidation during the three-hour event, providing participants with connections and insight into tech careers. Her team will conduct a session in coding.
Part of the difficulty in getting women into STEM fields is that they aren’t provided with good insight into what these technical professions entail, Kimball said. But since 2010, STEM jobs have grown 50 percent faster in Hillsborough County compared to national workforce data, part of the impetus for this event.
The entourage of women Kimball and her team have assembled can give that insight, she said.
The event will include a tech meet and greet, the coding class, concise presentations on various careers, a tech-careers speed-networking exercise and an interactive panel discussion.
The speed networking exercise will include Terri Willingham, a creative partner with Eureka Factor, which promotes creativity, “maker” events and innovation; Caitlin Wills, with Health Box, a technology incubator within an incubator which fosters new ideas in health care using technology; and Sylvia Martinez, with Co-Lab Tampa Bay, which conducts networking for the tech community.
Groups of five to eight women will hear from these experts about their education and careers and be able to ask questions about what they went through to get where they are today, Willingham said. “It’s really important to have opportunities for women to hear from each other,” she said. “Having a dedicated event like this to accomplish that is a wonderful thing.”
Kimball will moderate the interactive panel, featuring Luisa Bracamonte, a market researcher and investment analyst with the University of Tampa; Stephanie Tripp, associate professor of communication with the University of Tampa; Keosha Poole, a University of South Florida student entrepreneur; Stephanie Ashley, with USF Connect, a network of innovation-based companies; Nina Sanka, a systems analyst and network engineer; and Yael Monereau, a mechanical engineer representing the National Society of Black Engineers.
“I think in any field, male or female, no matter your ethnicity, it helps to have role models who are successful, who you can look up to and relate to,” Kimball said. “We’re seeing more of those role models on the national scene,” like Cheryl Sandberg with the Lean In movement, which encourages women to pursue their ambitions, and Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo, Inc. “There are plenty of them out there, but as young women, seeing these role models heightens their awareness of the opportunities available to them.”
To register for Women in Tech, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org/womenintech.