Written by Guest Blogger, Stephanie Byrd
Many large, popular companies, including Schneider Electric, Facebook, Disney, and Starbucks, were all in one huge room at the Grace Hopper Celebration last October. Over 15,000 talented women with computing backgrounds moved from booth to booth, looking for a place to launch their careers.
Many of these women were students with well-crafted elevator pitches and extreme “can-do” attitudes. These women know what they want. They know it’s competitive. And they’re willing to go anywhere and do anything to reach their dream.
Despite the sheer size of the event, the attitude was very casual. It was rare to see someone in a suit. Most company representatives wore jeans and t-shirts. The best shirts proudly supported women in technology with a funny quote or a tweaked company logo. The attendees weren’t afraid to display tattoos, purple hair, or cartoon backpacks.
Confident clothing choices aside, it was invigorating to be around so many smart women.
The scale of this event was larger than I imagined, and I expect next year’s GHC to have even more attendees. The event has been growing for years, and its popularity mirrors the fantastic growth of women in tech.
Thanks to the strongly supported STEM movement, more girls in K-12 are being exposed to the world of computing jobs. Looking back on my own school experience, I can’t remember being steered toward an engineering or IT career the way today’s young girls are. Perhaps I had selective hearing. Research shows that parents can heavily influence one’s chosen profession. So as more women in the computing industry become moms, we should continue to see a rise in female representation in tech.
Today, only 16% of the 3.1 million U.S. software engineers are women. The Grace Hopper Celebration honors one of the first women in software. Grace Hopper’s history with computers and World War II is worth learning. She was promoting this career choice back in the 1960s. In an interview she did with Cosmo, she said, “[Programming is] just like planning a dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so that it’s ready when you need it… Women are naturals at computer programming.”
It would have been interesting to be exposed to Grace Hopper earlier in my own life. When I was attending Baylor University, I saw signs plastered all over the business building encouraging students to major in Information Systems. I ignored them. When the parent of a student I gave swim lessons to described search engine optimization, and advised me to pursue it, I stared back blankly.
I may have missed the tech career wave early on, but fortunately I work in a company where there are so many opportunities for all types of women. That’s why I chose to represent the company at this event.
Why We Attend the Grace Hopper Celebration
Some of the booth attendees walked up to our booth and told us they didn’t expect to see Schneider here. “Why not?”, I thought. We have been in technology since the beginning of the company in the 1800s, and we continue to be on the cutting edge; merging internet and operational technologies. We devote 5% of our revenue to researching and developing new energy technology that leverages smart data, analytics, programming, communications and optimization software.
Not only do we offer a multitude of attractive and challenging entry-level jobs, we also offer a real sense of purpose. At our core, we believe that energy is a basic human right. That’s why “Life is On” is more than just a slogan for us. It’s the driving force behind everything we do.
Finally, Schneider Electric cares about diversity and wants to see more women represented in tech. Diversity is an integral part of our history, culture, and identity. We believe gender differences in the workplace complement each other and foster innovation.
We have women here in all positions, especially including our North American CEO. I’m happy to be one of the many valued female employees. I hope to see some of the bright, young faces I met at GHC join me soon.
Stephanie Byrd is passionate about energy and its role in reshaping industries, transforming cities, and enriching lives. She has eight years of advancement through Schneider Electric, currently serving as Government Relations Specialist. In this role she is responsible for creating company policy on matters of smart, safe, resilient, and sustainable energy. She acts as a liaison between Schneider businesses and legislative offices, trade associations, and governmental agencies to address short and long term market challenges.
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