We all have answers to the popular icebreaker question, If you could invite three to five famous people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite? on standby for team bonding activities and first dates, but what if we reserved that table for gender representation?
In celebration of groundbreaking women in male-dominated industries, we asked employees at InHerSight partner companies to answer one of two questions:
- Who’s a woman in tech you’d like to meet?
- Who’s a woman in tech who inspires you?
And their responses delivered. From the first programmer to founders to CEOs, these tech pioneers are so impressive that we’re thinking of hosting our own soiree and selfishly placing ourselves between Reshma Saujani and Kimberly Bryant. Ada Lovelace, pass the bread, please.
20 women in tech who inspire
Like to meet: “A woman in tech I'd like to meet is Sarah Nahm. Sarah is the founder and CEO of Lever, a talent CRM, and she is a diversity advocate. Under Sarah's leadership, Lever maintained a 50:50 gender ratio at all levels of leadership, 50 percent woman and nonbinary in technical roles, and over 40 percent non-white. Sarah seems to be really walking the talk, which is key in this day in age as companies 'want' to be diverse or consider themselves diverse but these stats are something to be admired. In addition, Lever is a powerful hiring tool that is also extremely modern and has really changed the way I work through talent acquisition.”
—Kaitlyn Heard, Manager, Talent Acquisition and Strategy, Milhouse Engineering and Construction Inc.
Like to meet: “Alice Goldfuss because she seems incredibly smart and her tweets are hilarious.”
—Josh Shin, Lead Mobile Engineer, Volley
Inspired by: “I'm inspired by Reshma Saujani. When she found the disparity in the way boys and girls approach technology education in schools, she decided to step in to address the imbalance so as to get girls more involved in the rapidly growing sector by creating Girls Who Code. The organization now brings computer science education to girls in schools and community centers in North America. The quote, ‘Embracing failure is the most important trait I’ve developed in my career,’ from Saujani is one I resonate with. I had gone through a few challenges earlier in my career that enabled me to develop a ‘fail fast, learn, and adapt quickly’ mindset. As a result, I moved from a career in sales to my current career in data science. However, I had to learn a lot of the skills on my own. Looking back, it would have been great if I had access and the option to learn coding in school, as well as had been shown the opportunities it could provide. I would love to meet Saujani and work with her to bring the education Girls Who Code provides to more underprivileged communities worldwide so that girls are equipped with the skills to pursue opportunities in tech and have financial freedom.”
—Shasnika DeMel, Datascientist, InfoTrust
Inspired by: “Reshma Saujani is someone that inspires me. She has many accomplishments in her career that are notable; however, the nonprofit organization she heads up called Girls Who Code is amazing. Her and the organization are working to give young girls the skills they need to be successful in opportunities related to computer science jobs. There is still a lack of women in this field and I found it admirable that with everything else she has going on, she saw that gap and came up with this idea. It’s inspiring to see what people can do with the right spirit.”
—Mary Obusek, Technical Compliance Manager, Penn Interactive Ventures
Inspired by: “Ada Lovelace. Referred to as ‘the first programmer,’ she’s inspiring because she’s a woman who was home-schooled by her mother.
—Ruble Joseph, Head of CoE - Data Science, Analytics and Consulting, eClerx
Inspired by: “Cat Noone, CEO of Stark, because of the amazing work she's doing to help designers and developers make digital products accessible.”
—Alissa Bodden, UI Designer, Crossrope
Like to meet: “Marcy Riordan, TTEC Digital. Marcy is the head of analytics & insights at TTEC Digital. She was the managing partner at TeleTech, which she co-founded. She not only serves up great products and services but does so in a collaborative and fun way. She helped to sell her business to TTEC and remained as the leader once acquired.”
—Kate Kompelien, Director, CX, Avtex
Like to meet: “A woman in tech I would like to meet is Joanna Stern, who is a personal technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal. I consider her the best at what she does—trustworthy, fair, and balanced—in a field that often gives in to hype or misses important details in what it's covering. I'm eternally grateful for her review of wireless mesh routers a few years ago, which helped me finally fix my parents' home's awful internet. She's also just enjoyable to read and/or watch.”
—Stephen Dewey, Lead Data Engineer, OneThree Biotech
Like to meet: “I would love to meet Anima Anandkumar, who has been a leader in AI over the past decade. Her work has pushed the boundaries of what was possible, by creating algorithms and tools that have unquestionably advanced the entire field.”
—Coryandar Gilvary, Chief Data Scientist, OneThree Biotech
Like to meet: “I would like to meet Camille Fournier. On top of being a highly successful technical professional, she works to educate other members of the technical community about building better products and careers. She also wrote one of my favorite books on technical management: The Manager's Path.”
—Brandon Shoop, Software Development, Sr. Manager, Boats Group
Whitney Wolfe Herd
Like to meet: “Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble. I'd be really interested to learn more about her thought process behind creating Bumble and what her thoughts are on other dating apps, especially as she worked for and resigned from Tinder before creating Bumble. Also, not many [well-known or mainstream] dating apps are women-focused so I think she's made a great achievement in that sense.”
—Janiene Farquharson, Talent Coordinator, INSHUR
Like to meet: “I would love to meet Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO at SpaceX, to pick her brain on the challenges of bringing a commercial space exploration offering to market.”
—Denny Cmiel, Junior Product Manager, The Looma Project
Like to meet: Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. She’s the CEO of a company that has 2 billion users, and she joined Google as the 16th employee. She advocated for the $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube and has run it since 2014. She wasn’t a tech person, received her degree in history and literature at Harvard. She took her first computer science class her senior year and later discovered she loved it.”
—Kate Kompelien, Director, CX, Avtex
Inspired by: "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" Sheryl Sandberg has been quoted when giving career advice. As a successful mother of two, Sheryl continues to inspire me to have the strength and confidence to share my voice and embrace the butterflies. While walking my path I am reminded to be authentically me and as she would say ‘lean in.’ Life is short in the grand scheme, and it is important to take advantage of every opportunity, embrace every moment all in, reflect and have gratitude.”
—Arley Havisto, Capability Director, Avtex
Like to meet: “I'd like to meet Anne McClain, a NASA astronaut, a very educated and brave person who became the youngest astronaut on the NASA roster. I'd like to ask her about Expedition 58/59, where she with the other crew conducted different interesting experiments, including editing DNA for the first time in space.”
—Inna Torchinsky, VP of QA, Radancy
Inspired by: “Lowe's SVP of Technology eCommerce, Marketing & Merchandising Neelima Sharma inspires me because no matter how much she has on her plate, she is intentional about taking time to mentor and speak at events to inspire and lead all in the tech industry. It is easy to turn down offers and requests when we are busy, but she makes the time to take on investing and growing others. She is truly a leader that lives and models Lowe’s values daily.”
—Tiffany Benitez, Sr. Manager of Business Portfolio Management, Lowe's Home Improvement
Inspired by: “Lowe's VP of Business Technology Management Kathy Higgins inspires me the most. She does not come from a technical background but taught herself. She holds herself and her team accountable, looks out for her team, and best positions them for the future. There are a large number of women she has coached and mentored who are our leaders of today or leaders for the future who can continue to learn from her. Kathy understands the business side of technology better than anyone else I have worked with and doesn’t think twice about challenging her team to do better!”
—Nicole Gersper, Lead Technology Program Manager, Lowe's Home Improvement
Like to meet: “Simone Giertz, ‘The Queen of Sh*tty Robots.’ A lot of times working in tech can lack a sense of humor. If things aren't built correctly, they break. People can be combative about the best way to tackle a problem. There isn't a lot of room for...levity. (Unless you make up hilarious function names when you've had too little sleep, like I do.) I think that's one of the reasons I love watching Simone's videos. Never one to take herself too seriously - even when she was diagnosed with cancer - her show centers around making mechanical robots that solve problems. Some valid, and some completely useless. But at the end of the day, it's about finding fun in the process of taking something from idea to object.”
—Angie Sanders, Sr iOS Developer/ Pod Lead, Penn Interactive Ventures
Like to meet: “It would be exciting and a little intimidating to meet Joy Buolamwini, who I think is a superhero in tech (and not just because her organization the Algorithmic Justice League sounds like what WonderWoman would join in 2021). Joy has a way of making it fun to think through and chew on complex ideas in technology, and how they can, or have the potential to impact our society. Her CV includes being a Rhodes Scholar AND a grad student at MIT among several other honors, but what stands out to me is that she uses her lived experience and simple examples to generate creative ways of getting folks engaged in the philosophy of technology. This means she's been able to create opportunities for self-reflection for many, including me, and to invite folks to try and solve deep issues like algorithmic bias in facial recognition software--so much so that she impacted companies like Microsoft to consider not just how they code, but who codes, and why. I'd love to meet Joy, to learn more about her experiences, research, and travels, plus to share ideas about how technology can be used for the good of, and for, all people through inclusive coding.”
—Morgan Welch, Manager, Customer Acquisition, Bandwidth
STEM leaders and groundbreakers like Kimberly Bryant, Jadwiga Carlson, and Alena Wicker
Inspired by: “While I am very thankful for the path paved by historically significant women in technology such as Ada, Grace or Hedy, I am inspired by many of today’s technology champions.
I am inspired by today's teachers that are igniting an interest in girls to pursue careers in STEM.
I am inspired by today's leaders and volunteers that are involved with mentoring programs such as Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, CODE4her, and others. The tireless efforts from the women leading these programs ensure we are minimizing the gender gap in STEM fields.
I am inspired by women like Kimberly Bryant, founder and CEO of Black Girls Code. Before dedicating herself to this purpose, she had a successful career as an engineer manager for companies such as Genentech, Merck, and Pfizer. Black Girls Code is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching girls ages 7-17 about computer programming and digital technology.
I am inspired by women like Jadwiga Carlson, faculty member at Bowling Green University in Ohio. Who, along with the BG Women in Computing (BGWIC) student organization, coordinate and provide the mentorship program CODE4her. A program that provides computer science mentoring for girls in grades 5-8.
I am inspired by girls like 12-year-old Alena Wicker who graduated high school and began attending Arizona University in May 2021 where she will double major in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry. She dreams of working at NASA as an engineer. She and others like her are forging the future of women in technology.
I am inspired by others like you and me that remain committed to interviewing and considering a diverse pool of candidates to fill technology positions that are more inclusive and equitable.
I am inspired by these and the many other unnamed STEM champions who continue to inspire the girls of today to stand up and resist the ridiculous notion that ‘smart girls aren’t cool’ and to continue building our collective future of greater inclusion and diversity in the technology industry.”
—Sherrie Campbell, Manager Development, Product UI, Radancy
Coworkers and peers
Inspired by: “When I first heard the question, I thought—not sure as there has not been really ONE woman who has inspired my career, however, there have been many that have helped keep my career on track. As a woman in the tech industry there are many issues that are most likely similar for any working woman. A couple things that come to mind are how to be viewed as a strong leader without being too harsh, getting promoted and working with a family. Therefore, to answer this question, I considered all of those who inspired me in some way to be better, stronger, and balanced. These women helped me build strengths that I may not have had without working with these women.
Stacy Nethercoat, Sr. VP, TD Synnex. I learned strength in believing in your team. Stacy was always so poised—could answer any question on the fly. Really supportive of her employee’s views. If something went wrong, she stood by you and would help figure the solution to benefit the company.
Terry Courtney, account director, Veeam. I learned perseverance. So, amazed with how well she knows her account and after years of managing her account is constantly thinking of new ways to be creative to move the ‘giant’ boat!
Julie Hodges, manager, TD Synnex. I learned family balance or maybe I should say family juggling! She had two young children and a high schooler. She inspired me to know you can work with children! I only had one child and would feel overwhelmed. I would come into work, and she would tell me some story of how she was able to make it out the door and to her desk. There was no way I could think of not being able to do it!!!
The last mention is to Dangvy Keller, VP Veeam. I have learned aspiration. I do not work with her that often, but when I do, I want to work more with her more to gain from her experiences and connections and to be a part of her channel strategy. She is extremely knowledgeable about the channel, she understands Cloud, marketplaces, has great relationships with executives at the distributors and really always has a plan of action.”
—Laura Chadwick, Cloud Aggregation Strategy Manager, Veeam
Inspired by: “As saccharine as it may sound, my own mother's journey through her career in technology has been both fascinating and admirable to me.
Having her first child (me) at 18 and not being able to go to university despite having all the required academic achievements, she instead spent 11 years as a full-time parent. At 29, she wanted to get back into work with her sights set on being a secretary or assistant and needed to find a typing course to help her achieve this. Unfortunately, there were no courses available at the local college but there was a typing module on an HNC (Higher National Certificate). After excelling in this she was encouraged to continue learning and went on to get both a diploma and then an honors degree in integrated business technology after which rather than looking for a typing/secretarial role, she became an Oracle database administrator.
Over the years, her stories of situations she's been in, the challenges she's overcome and how she's captured opportunities when they've presented themselves, have constantly made me realize that as a woman in technology, she has overcome obstacles that I've never experienced despite being in an almost identical field. Her journey from stay-at-home mother in Yorkshire with aspirations of learning how to improve her typing, to associate director of technology in the U.S. for one of the largest global payments technology companies in the world in less than two decades, is one I truly enjoy sharing as well as learning more about each time we see each other.”
—Stephen Ellingham, Engineering Manager, INSHUR