RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Thought leaders from across the Triangle and beyond are gathering virtually to discuss issues confronting women in these days of COVID-19 and beyond at the second Triangle Tech X conference.

Maureen McQueen, senior vice president, Global Services & Operations of MetLife, which is helping put on the event, talked with WRAL TechWire about the event and the issues being discussed. More than 50 speakers are participating.

  • The following graphic is from a new world economic forum study about future jobs. I would expect future jobs is a big part of your program. What do these statistics tell you about the challenges that women face in the future workforce?

World Economic Forum graphic

It’s clear that while progress has been made in some areas like people, culture and content production, women still face challenges with advancing in technical areas like cloud computing, data and artificial intelligence. There’s a combination of challenges to work through, ranging from higher education in STEM fields, management practices that may not be as inclusive, and recruitment strategies that need to be evaluated. MetLife employs more than 2,500 employees in North Carolina itself, and we’ve seen first-hand the impact women in STEM roles have.

  • Conversely, what are the big opportunities?

The challenges are where the opportunities lie, to bridge the gap in tomorrow’s workforce. Today’s leaders have the chance to develop a more focused agenda, that will not only increase the current talent pool but also the pipeline, from what women can access and pursue in terms of their education, to holding more C-suite and Board positions around the world.

MetLife photo

Maureen McQueen

Earlier this year, MetLife became the first US-based insurer to sign the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Principles, a series of commitments created by U.N. Women and the U.N. Global Compact to promote gender equity in the workplace and society. While progress has been made, we know that there’s still more work to do. I’m exciting to be a part of MetLife and its journey to create change that will truly have an impact on society and the economy at large.

  • Why do you believe this event is important?

MetLife’s second annual Triangle Tech X event is important because it’s an opportunity to bring together top executives and thought leaders to focus on commitment to bring equity to all and diversify the workforce. It is a call to action to bridge a critical gap in the workforce and our economy. It’s exciting to be a part of this event and I look forward to the ideas and actions being shared over the three days.

  • What do you hope to accomplish through this event?

We want to come away from this event with solutions and concrete actions to break down the barriers and obstacles women face in their careers, particularly those in STEM roles. Creating and strengthening the support systems and tools for women to advance their participation and leadership in tomorrow’s jobs is imperative. Acting on this with purpose, transparency and measurable objectives is a key objective of the event.

In the insurance sector, technology is critical enabler of the business, presenting us with an opportunity to break down barriers for current and future female talent. As Michel Khalaf, CEO & president of MetLife, has stated, empowering women “is a key element of our business strategy.”

  • What were the criteria for selecting speakers?

As we want Triangle Tech X to be a premier technology conference, we were thoughtful in inviting speakers and companies from areas that have a voice in this important journey. Our speakers are from the technology sector, academia, charitable organizations & community service, with the majority based in the Triangle Park region.

As the host of the event, MetLife’s leaders made a huge commitment to join Triangle Tech X to not only share our company’s commitments to gender equity but collaborate with other leaders to hold each other and ourselves accountable to this commitment and progress. We are thrilled to have MetLife’s female executive group and Board of Directors sharing their experiences and insights during the sessions.

Our event speakers are living this cause daily, be it through creating jobs, building awareness or providing the necessary support to women already in or entering the workforce.

  • How do you think the event could benefit and be better as a virtual event – or would you prefer in-person?

It is a bitter-sweet moment. Having the event take place in-person would have increased the chance for those personal connections, which are important. However, that approach would have limited us to hosting 200-300 people. Through the virtual format, we were able to expand our outreach to many more participants and attendees, with virtual chats, online Q&A, and social media discussions.