Women make up half of the planet’s population, but they do not play an equal role in creating the technology needed to solve the world’s many pressing problems.
Here to change this inequity on both local and global levels is RedChairPGH. The grassroots, volunteer organization of women and men is passionate about diversity in tech and knows well that the future of our economy and our region depends upon equity.
In October 2015, NEXTpittsburgh reported that “While information technology continues to be one of the fastest growing careers, women’s participation in the field over the last 25 years has steadily declined from a peak of 37% in the early 1980s to 18% today.”
Julia Poepping, founder of RedChairPGH, says that while these statistics have improved in some areas, the group is “challenging companies to learn how to reverse that trend more quickly.” Poepping, who graduated with a degree in Management Information Systems in 1982, recently retired from a 30-year career in technology with PPG.
Taking inspiration from the National Center for Women in Technology‘s #sitwithme advocacy campaign, Poepping formed RedChairPGH with other area tech leaders, such as Audrey Russo, CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Audrey Dunning, CEO of Summa Technology, and Lynn Banaszak, executive director of CMU’s Health Technology Institute.
This Thursday, tech professionals across the region are invited to take a seat and take a stand—both symbolically and literally—and show solidarity for this movement at RedChairPGH’s second annual event.
Setting up shop at the new state-of-the-art co-working space Alloy 26 on Pittsburgh’s Northside, the event seeks to build and support a local coalition dedicated to increasing diversity in computing and IT industries, encourage Pittsburgh companies and the tech community to correct imbalances, and foster a stronger local talent pool.
To get the conversation started, the night kicks off with a lively networking session. Attendees will engage with a diverse group of tech influencers, including representatives from major corporations, small startups, grassroots nonprofits, advocacy groups, and tech incubators, and can show solidarity with women in tech—and strike a pose—in the event’s #sitwithme photo booth.
The event’s prolific presenters will discuss their experiences overcoming challenges in IT careers at all levels, and will share practical tools that individuals and companies can use to reverse trends in inequity.
Featured guest speakers include: Lenore Blum, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, Christy Uffelman, a professional development expert with Align Leadership, and information technology executives Kathleen Lovett and John Quinn from Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Blum will speak about women in computer science at universities and will share experience from Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science undergraduate class, which 48% female—far above the national average of 16%. Uffelman, an expert in millennial development and women’s leadership, will highlight development for mid-career IT professionals, while the Thermo Fisher Scientific team will share the value diversity brings to their organization.
Following the talks, attendees are invited to unwind, exchange ideas, discuss concrete action steps, and pick up resources to share with colleagues.
Want to get involved but can’t attend the event? To further support their mission, RedChairPGH is also hosting a silent auction to benefit Strong Women Strong Girls. Open through November 30, the online auction invites the public to bid on presentations and mentoring sessions with CIOs from top Pittsburgh companies, as well as Pittsburgh Penguins box seats.
Looking for more events? Check out our 10 Pittsburgh events not to miss in November and 10 great family adventures in Pittsburgh this November feature stories.