The United States will continue to see an increase in computing jobs over the next decade, but more than two-thirds of those jobs will go unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified applicants. At the same time, more men than women continue to pursue information technology careers, despite the fact that more women are going to college, according to the nonprofit National Center for Women and Information Technology.
Pennie Turgeon, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Clark University, is well aware of those statistics, and she’s always looking to mentor and encourage young women to consider information technology careers. Recently, she invited 14 Clark students to join her and her colleague, Becky Frieden, at a daylong Women of the Channel Career Pursuits Workshop in New York. ClarkCONNECT — the University's initiative connecting students to the broader Clark community for mentorship, college-to-career exploration, and world and workplace opportunities — co-sponsored their trip.
“Too often women don’t consider careers in the IT field or in IT industries — careers that can be quite fulfilling and lucrative,” Turgeon says. “There is a general perception that a degree in computer science or engineering is a required, yet only about 30 percent of the jobs in IT industries require highly technical skills.
“My goal in sponsoring this event was to shift that thinking by offering our female students the opportunity to hear first-hand from accomplished women in IT-oriented careers about potential paths, hurdles and opportunities.”
Turgeon moderated a student panel discussion, "The Future Is Theirs: Meet The Next Generation of Leaders,” which featured a Clark student, Gabriella Southwick ’18, and two students from other colleges talking about what they need from their educational experiences and from employers in the IT industry.
The daylong event drew students from Clark and seven other colleges and universities who attended career workshops on topics ranging from opportunities in IT services and in high-tech industries, to building a network of supportive professional women. The students also met with technology leaders via a “speed networking” session.
“Many of these young ladies had never experienced networking first-hand, and this safe space allowed them to open up and to ask probing questions that eventually lead to connections,” says Frieden, director of administrative services for information technology and a visiting lecturer in Clark’s Graduate School of Management. Southwick, a management major and economics minor who works as a data analytics intern in Clark’s Information Technology Services, says the experience was invaluable, given that she plans to pursue a tech career after graduation next May.
“I loved being able to listen to the experiences and paths taken by women in the tech industry, in such an intimate environment,” Southwick says. “Being able to meet people like Linda Hutchinson [NA channel sales leader for Ciena Corp.] wouldn’t have been possible at a bigger conference. The opportunity to speak and share my journey was amazing and has helped me to make a few great connections.”
Joining Southwick were 13 other Clark students:
- Bezawit Ayalew ’19
- Fiona Daly ’19
- Breanna Desrochers ’19
- Taylor Erickson ’19
- Jenna Harrison-Peters ’18
- Caroline Jones ’18
- Harpreet Kaur ’19
- Tiffany Kayo ’19
- Mariah Papy ’20
- Grace Schiaffo ’21
- Carolina Song ’19
- Rose Wine ’20
- Christina Zymaris ’19
“Pennie and I both felt that we personally got as much out of the day as the students did,” Frieden says. “It felt fulfilling to know that maybe, just maybe, one of these young ladies will take something from the day and use it to launch her career.”
Above, from left: Jenna Harrison-Peters '18, Rose Wine '20, Gabriella Southwick' 18 and Fiona Daly '19 networked with tech industry leaders at the Women of the Channel Career Pursuits Workshop in New York.