A new online initiative promoting women in IT launched this week that follows the lives and careers of women in technology across every continent - including Antarctica - through an online diary format and photo album.
Entitled “Doing IT Around the World”, the initiative followed 36 women in IT role models around the world on August 11 from first sunrise in Oceania and Antarctica, to where it last set 44 hours later in Hawaii.
August 11 was chosen to follow the women as it was the day that a patent was granted to Hedy Lamarr for her co-invention of spread-spectrum broadcast communications technologies, which form the basis of modern wireless communications.
The women were chosen from a wide range of ages, industries and technology areas - from a communications technical officer in Antarctica to the director of a Sub-Saharan ICT solutions provider – with each providing an image rich “Day in the Life of..” diary describing their work and passion for technology.
The aim of the initiative is to address the declining numbers of girls and women taking up technology studies, and to help stem the tide of women leaving the IT industry by offering real life examples of the multiple career paths and geographic locations a career in IT can lead.
The Day in the Life of.. diaries followed women in Antartica, Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Job roles included CTOs, information management specialists, open source advocates, sales and marketing, data mining, governance, Web design, graphic art, instrumentation design, computational biology, microelectronics, molecular biology, medical and legal technologists and more.
Sonja Bernhardt, founder of the initiative and owner/CEO of software development company ThoughtWare, explained that Doing IT Around the World features women from a broader definition of IT that includes high tech and medical fields.
“We don’t just mean traditional Information Technology, we mean Innovation Technologies; bio-informatics, science technology, and also people that are into new media like blogs and digital video. We’ve extended IT to mean anybody that uses technology as an underlying infrastructure in an innovative way,” she said.
While the women come from many different industries, countries and age groups, Bernhardt said they are all linked by their passion for technology, and one other common trend: “Aside from the fact that they absolutely love what they do, the only thing that’s the same for all of them is as soon as they get up in the morning the first thing they all do is check their emails!”
The Web site also hopes to act as an educational tool for school children considering a career in any high technology field.
Web 2.0 and social networking tools played a key role in making the initiative possible, as professional social networking sites like LinkedIn and VoIP technologies allowed Bernhardt to find and communicate with the featured women freely, without the need to travel all over the world.
“Many people are just playing with these tools for fun instead of realising that you can have a global project that basically costs nothing, by using all of the social networking tools, collaborative Web databases and content management systems to connect in a seamless way.”
Bernhardt is also the co-founder of Australian Women IT and Science Entity (AWISE) and has lead a number of initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining women in IT; including IT’s Million Dollar Babes awards, the Screen Goddess calendar, and supporting the Tech Girls are Chic, not Just Geek book.