Women in technology panel pushes change

Kristen Riello

There’s been a lot of talk about women’s rights and feminism recently, so it was timely that the Computer Information Systems (CIS) Society would hold the Women in Technology panel on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

When I first heard about the event I had no intention of going because I didn’t think it pertained to me. It wasn’t until one of my design professors said she was speaking at the event that I realized a designer is part of the technology field. Sitting on a computer all day, you think I would realize this, right? I found myself there in the audience amongst a surprisingly well-balanced mix of men and women. What I got out of the panel was more than I had ever thought possible.

I’ve never been one to see my gender as an obstacle that could hold me back from being a recognized and accomplished graphic designer. Why would being female hold me back? But after hearing my design professor, along with the other well-accomplished women, speak about the hurdles they’ve had to jump through in their careers, I realized that this is a real issue. I realized this affects me.

I started thinking about all the times I’ve designed for men. When men ask for designs from me, they’re very direct and assertive with what they want. When women ask for designs from me, they’re more afraid to tell me what they want and tend to give me more artistic freedom. When men see the final product of my designs, they’re not afraid to tell me what needs to be changed about the design, and have me re-do it until it’s perfect. But women always accept the first design I send them.

It’s interesting to have this perspective of the differences between men and women when asking things to be done for them. The panel brought up a strong point—are men reaching for more opportunities? From birth, men are taught to be extremely competitive amongst one another, and they’re not afraid to fight for leadership.

 I want to be a leader in the design field, and I never have and never will picture men standing in my way—why should they? My whole life I have always strived to be the best designer/artist I can possibly be, and I’m not afraid to fight to be the best. I consider myself to be very competitive in my design classes, which are predominantly made up of females. I want to be the best in my design and art classes, and I was like that all throughout high school as well.

My competitive spirit has gotten me many opportunities that more tame designers have missed out on. If all women reached for the same opportunities that men did, would women be in more leadership positions? And what about if people actually gave women these positions when they do reach for them?

Listening to these powerful, confident women on the panel speak with such passion and confidence about women making a difference in technology, really gave my fighting spirit an extra push. They said to be ambitious, confident and to never underestimate your abilities. Always fight for what you deserve, especially when it comes to fairness and equal pay in the workplace. Don’t lose yourself, and always stay true to who you are.