Why SheTech is Important for Women’s Leadership Development
When you think of the tech industry traditionally, you probably think of a man in a backward hat chatting on his airpods while he rides around on a skateboard. One of my goals while at Qualtrics is to do anything in my power to help change the misconception that these are the only kind of people that will belong in the tech industry.
In November, Qualtrics’ Women’s Leadership Development (WLD), the employee resource group that helps drive gender parity, announced that the group was going to be involved in the SheTech Explorer Day this April. I was excited to volunteer, mainly to contribute to young womens’ understanding of opportunities available to them. But truthfully, I also volunteered so that I could learn from the smart, dynamic, and hardworking women of Qualtrics!
Before attending SheTech, 87% of high school girls asked don’t think STEM is for them. After going through the SheTech program, 93% of young women are interested in pursuing STEM degrees in college. This often leads to opportunities in the tech industry. I got involved in the SheTech Explorer Day because it’s really important to me to see women represented in the industry in which I work.
What is SheTech?
SheTech is an awesome program put on by the WomenTechCouncil. It was created to activate, engage, and inspire young women into STEM degrees and then into successful careers. SheTech is a year-long program that includes high schoolers from all over Utah. It has even expanded into Colorado and Idaho. Because the program is free to its members, 30% of the young women who are able to take part come from Title I schools (schools receiving federal funds to support low-income students).
The program culminates in an event called Explorer Day, which took place in Sandy on April 9th, 2019. This event draws young women from up to 200 miles away. Throughout the day attendees circulate through a TechZone full of fun and interactive booths run by tech companies. When they’re not exploring the TechZone, they’re able to take part in various workshops. This year they were all designed around the common theme of “finding your dreams in tech.”
How Was Qualtrics Involved?
Our Qualtrics team ran three workshops to get women to explore what is possible with the use of technology:
Discover Your Future Career
We built a Buzzfeed Style quiz in Qualtrics using questions such as “What is your favorite food?” and “Where is your ideal vacation spot?”. These answers were used to match them with potential careers in tech. Afterward, they received an email about how technology can be integrated into their career, no matter where their passions lie. We also used CX dashboards and StatsiQ to analyze the data and talk about trends among their answers.
Lead Like a Boss
This session started with us asking the young women what leadership meant to them. We asked if they had examples of leadership in their lives. We also challenged them to brainstorm ways they could act as leaders in their lives. Then, we showed sample data from an EE dashboard we built that collected fake feedback from “unhappy employees” at our made-up company. We broke into groups and asked the young women what they would do in each situation if they were managers of these employees. Finally, we all got together to talk about the action items they all thought of.
Invent Your Own Product
During the first part of this workshop, the young women were able to dream up their own invention individually or in groups. Then, they built surveys to collect feedback on the products they built. The Qualtrics team guided them on what kind of questions they may want to ask or what kind of data they should collect. After, we showed them a Qualtrics survey we made as a template and allowed them to adjust their surveys based on our example. Each group collected feedback on its “newly patented” product by sharing its invention with the room.
How I Got Involved in the SheTech Explorer Day:
I was actually pretty new to WLD when I volunteered to help with Qualtrics’ involvement in SheTech Explorer Day. Even so, I had a ton of autonomy planning our involvement in this conference. With help from members of the sales, marketing, legal, and engineering teams, along with a huge lift from my fellow product specialists, I was able to oversee the planning of the booth and workshops. I also served as the liaison between Qualtrics and the Women Tech Council in order to coordinate logistics. The day of the conference, I got there early to set up and to check everything was good to go. I was also fortunate enough to teach one session of all three of our workshops alongside seven other talented product specialists!
My favorite workshop to teach was the “Lead Like a Boss” workshop. The feedback we got from the first few questions (What does leadership mean to you? Can you give an example of a time someone acted as a leader in your life? What is one thing you can do to show leadership in your life?) was so inspiring and refreshing. We got a ton of different responses to these questions and the scenarios we presented to the young women. Each brought a new perspective to their take on leadership. I walked away from that session so energized because of the maturity and creative thinking they displayed throughout the workshop.
How Does SheTech Contribute to the Leadership Development of Women?
The biggest thing is that SheTech shows young women that STEM is an option for them. If they don’t know any women in STEM and don’t see that representation in their own lives, how are they going to believe that they can one day work in that field? Only 15% of young women plan to stay in Utah beyond college because they are not aware of the opportunities available in Utah’s tech industry. But after they understand the availability of challenging, rewarding, and high paying jobs available in their own backyard, that number changes to about 60%.
One of the highlights of SheTech is that Governor Gary Herbert spoke about the importance of women in tech. He “is requesting $3.9 million in this year’s state budget to ensure that three different computer science courses are available in every Utah school by 2022.” It was really encouraging to see government leadership taking an interest in this issue, and I loved when he said “these numbers are not acceptable” after rattling off some bleak historical statistics about women in tech/STEM. For example, only 23% of the tech workforce and 5% of tech execs are women. This needs to change!
I really hope that young women understand that they can do anything they put their minds to. I want them to recognize that tech is not a field exclusively for men. There is plenty of room for women to make waves and have really successful long term careers. I believe this year’s theme, “Your Dreams in Tech,” inspired Explorer Day attendees to consider how technology can be incorporated into their lives, no matter the industry they decide to pursue a career in. Attending workshops with women in the tech industry and exploring the women-run TechZone booths, they could see their future selves represented. Once young women understand that they can do it, they will.
Qualtrics is growing, and the Women’s Leadership Development group is one of many ways you can find community at Qualtrics. Ready to explore our career opportunities? Visit our career page.
Looking to discover “Why Qualtrics”? You can find an entire series here – including stories from other WLD members.
|Mackenzie Schnieder a Product Specialist on the Global Operations (or Quni) team. She has her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Georgetown University. She was the Team Captain for Georgetown University Field Hockey and is an avid explorer of Utah. At Qualtrics, she is a member of the Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) group.|