NEW BERN – The first in-person NC TECH Summit for Women in Tech continues Friday in New Bern, and the two-day event is full of networking, keynotes and motivational moments, and panel discussions covering a slate of topics that include the future of technology, how to negotiate your worth, and career pathways and choices for women pursuing technical roles.
Ahead of the event WRAL TechWire connected with Michelle Calton, the vice president of strategy and development at NC TECH, and a Q&A style interview with Calton, which has been lightly edited, follows.
WRAL TechWire (TW): Tell us about this year’s event, and what to expect
Michelle Calton (Calton): A few years ago, when NC TECH decided to add a Summit for Women in Tech to our lineup of signature events, our intent was for it to be a destination event that would draw women from across the state. After two successful virtual events, our third event will finally be held in person in the beautiful town of New Bern. There is also virtual access for those unable to attend in person, and virtual tickets can still be purchased at the event website.
Summit participants can expect to engage with women from a variety of roles, career stages and locations from both tech and tech-enabled organizations. Attendees will enjoy a variety of networking activities and hear from keynoters Savita Raj and Laurie Ruettimann, as well as speakers, Dante Anderson, Robin Gordon, and Anne Hungate, who will provide shorter ‘motivational moments’. The agenda will also feature panel discussions focused on topics such as The Future of Technology, Negotiating Your Worth, and Pathways + Choices for Tech Women. Our vision is to provide an event rich with content, mentorship, inspiration, takeaways, and some fun!
More about the Summit
TW: Will there be a theme to the event this year?
Calton: We engaged a host committee, made up of female tech leaders from across the state, to identify a relevant theme and plan the event.
The chosen theme this year is Solving for W – The Women in Tech Equation, which is intended to highlight the strengths women bring into the workplace such as problem solving, team building and communications skills, to name a few.
The goal of the Summit is to improve opportunities for women in tech at all levels, especially in leadership positions in both tech companies and tech-enabled organizations. As such, the theme seemed fitting as we strive to provide a forum for relationship building and best practice sharing.
TW: What is something that you are most excited about?
Calton: While the agenda is incredibly exciting, the various opportunities to network and build relationships with other tech women from across the state is what we are most looking forward to after two years of hosting the event virtually.
We made sure that we incorporated social and networking activities to provide options for attendees to enjoy the local sites and to get to know one another.
We are excited to provide options for attendees to choose from including a boat tour of New Bern, a visit to Tryon Palace along with a trolley tour of the local historic sites, a welcome reception on the riverfront, and group dinners hosted by female tech leaders.
TW: NC TECH just released the latest IT Job Trends report and job postings for IT positions fell again in August – plus many companies have begun to announce layoffs. Is there any concern that this may impact North Carolina companies’ or NC TECH member companies’ ability to continue to make progress on reaching greater gender diversity?
Calton: Although IT job postings fell from a record high in May 2022, we continue to celebrate announcements of major expansions, like Wolfspeed and Live Oak Bank. Additionally, tech giants Apple and Google continue to ramp up hiring for projects announced in recent years. Also exciting is the size, scope, and high-tech nature of expansion plans for Toyota, VinFast and Boom Supersonic.
North Carolina continues to receive accolades, such as the state with Best Business Climate in the nation by Business Facilities magazine, America’s Top State for Business by CNBC, and the Inaugural Platinum Shovel Award for Economic Development from Area Development Magazine.
We see signs pointing to continued growth for existing industry moves and expansions, despite the news of layoffs and downsizing. It will be interesting to see what impact the volatility of the economy and the upcoming midterm elections might have in the remaining months of the year.
TW: What is the latest data show about gender diversity in NC tech companies – particularly at management and executive levels?
Calton: NC TECH releases an annual State of the Tech Industry Report where North Carolina is highlighted as a top state for women in tech.
North Carolina ranks #2 in the nation in the percentage of women employed in the Tech Industry, with 35.7% of the workforce. While this number is not broken down by employment levels, the state’s ranking, second only to Maine, shows the strength of diversity in the workforce and importance technology companies place on diverse teams.
Earlier this year, NC TECH launched a Diversity Benchmark Initiative to define a baseline of how tech and tech-enabled companies/organizations are faring in diversity, equity, and inclusion. While the baseline data showed there is still a large disparity between men and women in both management and leadership positions, we look forward to seeing progress in future years. This first year had 12 participating employers and we hope the pool of companies will continue, bringing greater awareness and action to increase diversity at all levels including leadership.