A job in technology can be an excellent career path for anyone. For working women, these jobs are a ticket to a vocation that offers them prestige, worthwhile benefits, and income that allows them to thrive in the workforce.
Women in Technology Tennessee
Women in Technology Tennessee (WiTT), a membership organization for professional women in Tennessee’s tech workforce, has been at the forefront of getting women into the talent pipeline since 1999. Meg Chamblee is the current president of WiTT. In her “day job,” Chamblee serves as Executive Vice President for the technology consulting company UDig’s Tennessee Market. As an executive vice president of a company that provides custom software development, data, and intelligent automation services, Meg leads the office, manages client relationships, and oversees the services that UDig offers its customers.
Meg explains, “Our job is to understand what clients need from a technology perspective to improve the businesses or make things more efficient, and help them build it.”
President of WiTT Meg Chamblee
All of the little pieces of knowledge from Meg’s previous work history made her a great fit for WiTT. Initially brought on to do publicity for the organization in 2014, Meg came to WiTT with the desire to get involved with something that let her give back to the community. Before joining WiTT, she created an extracurricular coding club for four different middle schools in Williamson County. Since she was knowledgeable in the positive impact STEM education could have, Meg was able to take on more responsibility within WiTT. Climbing up the ranks, Meg eventually became president of WiTT. Despite the fact that her term expires January 2022, Meg plans to stay in the organization, and be succeeded by MTSU’s Dr. Amy Harris.
Considering that 39 percent of the Middle Tennessee technology workforce is female, Meg is pleased with the growth of WiTT’s membership. WiTT presently boasts 260 members—its largest count thus far—and continues its push to expand its ranks. Attendees of WiTT events don’t have to be members, and this has resulted in upwards of 800 unique attendees of WiTT events in the last 12 months. Many of these events have panels of women in leadership positions, and Meg says that a lot of women walk away from WiTT meetings feeling empowered.
She says, “They hear a female CIO up there talking about her career path, and inevitably that connects with you in some way. You go, ‘Okay, other women have done this, and I can do this, too.’”
According to Meg, WiTT’s engagement of female tech workers is necessary because of the “You can’t be what you can’t see” mindset. So many women have had the experience of being the only female in the office. Thus, the very experience of women getting to see other women in leadership roles—sometimes for the first time—can have a powerful effect. Meg says that often, “you just don’t have that same sense of connection” when comparing office relationships between men and women and women and women.
Meg appreciates the many great male coworkers she has, but shares that that’s not enough for most women. She says, “Often, it can feel a bit isolating, a little bit lonely in the long run.
So, it’s nice to join WiTT and be able to connect with other women in the field.”
WiTT’s efforts to empower women go beyond just the events that they offer to the community. This is part of the organization’s daily mission. It has to be! There is a tremendous need for more women in technology. As an example of this stark reality, Meg notes that women make up only 20 percent of software developers across the country.
Meg says, “So what we’re trying to do is get more women into the field. Talk to more girls about technology, careers—and inspire them young.”
This is where WiTT’s K-12 educational programs and college mentorships come into play. The organization has partnered with six different universities in Middle Tennessee. In these partnerships WiTT offers its members as mentors to female college students who are majoring in technology-related fields. These mentorships have resulted in internships, jobs, and valuable career advice that will influence these young women throughout their lives.
Meg says that mentorship is something that many current working professionals need as well, which is the reason for WiTT’s member mentorship program.
“For the first time, we have an organized effort where our more senior members volunteer to be mentors… This includes anyone in a management or senior level position, who was willing to mentor some of our more junior members.”
Meg notes that this program has proven popular, and resulted in a boost in membership.
Meg says, “Our hope is that those mentees will then pay it forward and mentor college students.” She adds that she wants to see WiTT’s mentored college students pass the knowledge they’ve learned down to those in high school, so that incoming college students may be better prepared and supported.
WiTT also believes in helping to offset the financial burden of going to school to get into a tech job. Therefore, WiTT gives away between $30-$50K in scholarships every year. The prospective female tech workers may join WiTT and earn more scholarships that they can use throughout their postsecondary education. This is made possible through generous donations from sponsors like Amazon and Bridgestone, and via the money collected from WiTT members who want to see a greater female presence in the future workforce.
How does this work?
“So let’s say you want to… get a certification or go to a conference,” Meg explains. “We have all kinds of scholarships at any stage for women who are going to pursue technology as a career.”
WiTT has created strong relationships with other organizations in the Nashville area. In 2021, WiTT established an endowment with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee with an initial $25K investment.
“The endowment will continue to grow and support female technology students in Middle Tennessee for generations to come” Meg says. She says that well past her lifetime, WiTT will continue to support women through these programs.
Since many teachers are expected to pay for supplies out of pocket, WiTT has also created a teacher fund—presently resting at $10K. This fund was created so that teachers can apply for tech-related classroom items or professional development training for themselves, allowing for better technology-based education for students. Applications for this fund will be available to teachers on a quarterly basis.
“We want to be able to benefit as many teachers as we can in the Middle Tennessee community who are trying to teach technology in any facet in the classroom,” Meg says.
For further information about Women in Technology Tennessee, be sure to visit their website and social media.