Forging Forward with Women in Tech

Elizabeth A. Spranzani, SVP, Development

It's been an exciting 2018 for women in technology and Sitecore. Much like the larger movements that have been gaining momentum in the world such as Women in Tech, Girls Who Code, and Move the Dial, Sitecore's smaller microcosm has been exploding with activity by both men and women to raise awareness and support for women in technology.
This initiative kicked off earlier in the year with the announcement of the 2018 MVPs (Sitecore's selective Most Valuable Professional program).  It was great to have more women join the ranks, but it also made the group aware that more had to be done to highlight their achievements and encourage more women to reach for the Sitecore MVP goal. To do this, the majority of the group had the idea to submit a presentation proposal for the upcoming Sitecore Symposium conference in October. This presentation would include 18 of the women MVPs, four of whom were from Verndale, discussing various topics around empowering women in technology and Sitecore.
Simultaneously many other things were happening.  Sitecore recognized how important highlighting and empowering women in tech was to their community and not only approved the session, but also began a Women of Sitecore program and planned a Move the Dial luncheon event at Symposium. It was amazing how everyone wanted to help and do what they could: a twitter feed was opened (#womenofsitecore), a Slack group formed, and a website was created all to support women within the Sitecore community.
Sitecore reached out to women who would be attending Symposium to film short video snippets for the Move the Dial luncheon. Mark Stiles (fellow MVP and videographer extraordinaire) offered to film a round table with a group of the women involved, to give a voice to the group that would be far reaching.  The excitement grew over being a part of something we knew was special, and before long underground swag was popping up: t shirts, buttons, stickers. Our community began to grow. 
All the meanwhile, our MVP session group continued to plan for our talk, Empowering Women in Tech, which we narrowed down to 6 key topics:
  • Why having a community matters
  • Why organizations benefit from enabling more women in roles of technology and leadership
  • What are the barriers that women in tech feel that we as a community can help overcome
  • In what ways may an organization be inadvertently creating a gender gap
  • How women can balance a personal life with the demands from a career in technology
  • How we can inspire and develop the newest generation of women looking to grow their careers in technology
This year's Sitecore Symposium was an educational experience for all of us, learning about each other's personal stories, and the unexpected mutual feelings and thoughts.  We all realized that we were MVPs because of a shared drive to succeed, but that we also had external circumstances that helped us achieve that goal. The larger realization was that we now owed it to other women to help them do the same, whether it be through advice, mentorship, sponsorship, or just simply sharing our stories so they know what is possible.
Finally the Symposium rolled around in October and we were able to meet in person. It was a whirlwind, many of the women were planning individual speaking sessions as well as our group MVP session.  We all had various company commitments.  But we were fortunate to get together a few times to practice and were honored by Paige O'Neill's (Sitecore's CMO) involvement as well. The best part was the feeling of friendship and comradery that most of us had likely never felt at this kind of event before.  It was special and fun and we look forward to next year when we can see each other again.
The challenge now is to keep going with #womenofsitecore and being there to support, encourage, and educate each other.  The simple truth is it gives more meaning at a human level to what we do in this world of technology and agency life, which can get a bit chaotic.  It makes us better colleagues, vendors, customers as we head into 2019.