The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy hosted a lunch on Tuesday as part of “Wired Women: Bridging the Technology Gap,” a series exploring the opportunities and challenges faced by women in technology.
The panel featured Christine Outram, senior inventionist at Deutsch LA and founder at City Innovation Group; Sophia Viklund, co-founder of backCODE; and Sarah Penna, co-founder and chief creative officer of Big Frame. The lunch discussion was hosted by CCLP director and USC professor Geoffrey Cowan and chaired by CCLP senior fellow, author and journalist, Narda Zacchino.
According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, women represent only 6 percent of the chief executives of the top 100 U.S. tech companies and 22 percent of software engineers.
“Women need to stand up and take a seat at the table,” Penna said. “There is a mental and psychological barrier that a lot of women have. They ask themselves, ‘Do I deserve a seat at the table?’”
Viklund noted that even though greater numbers of women have started entering the field of technology, more women still need to step up.
“It’s like martial arts — sometimes you get hit but what makes a difference is how fast you recover,” Viklund said.
Outram also spoke about the need for women to push forward.
“If you fail the first time, stand up and push forward,” Outram said. “Find another way to get in. Find another company.”
In regards to what people should be doing to help women get leadership positions in media technology, Viklund said there was not one formula for every woman.
“It is important to figure out the best strategies for yourself,” Viklund said. “You should expect career changes at least four or five times in a lifetime. But, the great advantage is that you have a lot of resources on your hands to make it happen for yourself. You have a lot of support — family, societal and public.”
Panelists also spoke about the issue of income inequality in the workplace and urged women in the audience to take part in the discussion.
“If we want to get paid equally, we need to set goals for ourselves,” Outram said. “Know what you are worth and develop a strategy to reach your goal. It’s not just about believing it.”
Many female students said they found the discussion both helpful and inspiring.
“It’s interesting that the progress of women has been different in different industries,” said Elise Welch, a graduate student in public diplomacy. “It was interesting to hear from women who have succeeded in that area. Though there are still gender biases, I think it’s important for women to overcome their insecurities. Women have to get out there.”
Future lunches in the series will discuss opportunities and challenges encountered by women in sports journalism, photojournalism and punditry.
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