Editor’s note: Brooks Raiford is President + CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association. This Thursday, Sept. 24, NC TECH is hosting its inaugural Summit for Women in Tech. For registration, go here.

RALEIGH — In 2015, the North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH) released its first annual report showing where North Carolina ranks as a tech/innovation-friendly state.

The North Carolina State of Technology Industry Report – or NCSTIR – compares all fifty states based on over 100 metrics that, when taken together, illustrate which states are seeing the greatest strength in areas including economic impact of the tech sector, wages for tech employees, patent production and the like.

Overall, North Carolina compares favorably in most categories, particularly in growth rates (past and projected future) of the tech workforce, average wages, start-up early survival rates and total R&D as a percentage of Gross State Product.

The stand-out statistic since the launch of this annual report is that North Carolina has continued to rank first among the states in the percentage of the tech sector workforce made up of women (35.5% in 2020) for the past six years.

WRAL TechWire

Brooks Raiford, CEO of NC TECH, talks jobs

While that ranking is a point of pride for the Tar Heel State, the percentage of women in the tech sector workforce is still disproportionate to the makeup of the overall workforce, so there is much work to be done to advance women in the technology sector.

Additionally, feedback from IT leaders who have participated in NC TECH programming is that not only does the percentage of the tech workforce made up of women lag their representation in the overall workforce, but there is significant departures among women within five years of joining the tech workforce (similar to the teaching profession).

This results in an uneven distribution within the sector, in which the bulk of women in tech employment are early in their careers (and experience), with a much smaller representation at more seasoned levels. This pattern results in a thin pool of women with experience, leadership and accomplishment in tech, leading to even more dramatic underrepresentation of women in senior tech leadership roles.

These statistics illustrate why NC TECH decided to hold an event centered on igniting change within the industry. On the mornings of September 24-25, NC TECH will host its first annual Summit for Women in Tech. Originally planned as a retreat-style conference to be held in Asheville at the historic Grove Park Inn, the Summit has been converted to a virtual offering (with plans to return to Asheville next year).

For years, NC TECH has hosted various programs focused on women and other underrepresented populations in technology. Earlier this summer, the Association hosted its first annual Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit as a virtual conference that was very well-attended and received. We expect this conference to have a similar turnout and reception.

Jo Abernathy, CIO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and a member of the Summit planning committee, played a huge role in making this event happen. She recently noted that, “Though women represent 47 percent of the workforce across all sectors in the U.S., we’re still lagging in IT, with just over a third of roles held by women.” As someone who’s committed to changing these statistics at her organization, she believes that this event will help bring organizations together to move the needle on gender equality in tech.

The Summit’s opening keynote speaker is Cynthia (Cynt) Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Marshall was previously President of AT&T North Carolina before serving as the global SVP of HR and Chief Diversity Officer of AT&T. The lineup of speakers and panelists is a remarkable array of leaders who offer insights and engage in discussion with each other and with attendees. The Summit will provide key takeaways and tools for attendees to use to create, build and nurture networks among women for immediate and long-term impacts.

The Summit presentations and discussions provide an opportunity to discuss how data bias impacts women; how organizations and individuals can effect change to cultivate strong female leaders; and how we all can be allies for racial equity.

Already, over 300 women – and leaders who support them – from 75 companies, organizations, governments and institutions are registered for this important event, themed IGNITE CHANGE. Attendance and sponsorship demand has exceeded original plans, and there’s still time left for registration numbers to grow.

Organizations may send individual or groups of employees by sponsoring, purchasing discounted blocks of tickets or encouraging individual registrations. The Summit is open to the public, with member and non-member rates available.

The full lineup and participation options are available at the Summit for Women in Tech section of the NC TECH website.