The IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC) is a STEM-packed event that launched five years ago, bringing together women in tech-oriented roles.
According to IEEE WIE ILC, the event “provides professional women in technology, whether in industry, academia, or government, the opportunity to create communities that fuel innovation, facilitate knowledge sharing, and provide support through highly interactive sessions designed to foster discussion and collaboration.”
I had the privilege of attending last year’s event, which featured Canva’s Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki’s 10 steps for the art of innovation, and a technical session led by Sr. Manager at ON Semiconductor Radhika Arora, titled “Image Sensors—Eyes for Autonomous Vehicles.”
This year’s event takes place May 23-24 in Austin, Texas. To learn more about what 2019’s conference has in store, ECN recently spoke with Kathy Herring Hayashi, conference chair of the 2019 IEEE WIE ILC.
Empower, Engage, and Inspire
The IEEE WIE ILC targets women in mid to senior positions, hoping to encourage and support their career trajectories toward the front lines of innovation.
Hayashi explains, “It is to empower, to engage, and to inspire mid to senior career women in technology fields. The metrics are consistently showing that mid to senior career women often leave the technology field, and they just don’t leave their jobs or careers, they leave the entire vertical altogether.”
In order to stifle that trend, the ILC offers a chance to network with like-minded individuals, creating a community to share insights and extend support for one another.
“What the ILC does is bring mid to senior career women together. We hope that we inspire them with the technologies that got them there in the first place, and also to help them to network and support them by learning about some new emerging technologies so they can continue to be at the forefront of leadership and technology,” Hayashi says.
Hayashi stresses that networking is of major importance to conference goers. It’s imperative to meet with other women in similar verticals as a reminder that they’re not alone. “We all have our own journeys, our own experiences,” she says. “It’s nice to be among your peers within the industry.”
“One of the things I hear a lot of is, ‘Wow I didn’t know that there are so many women like me.’ So this brings them all into one place,” continues Hayashi. “Even within a company, [women] don’t always get together, so this gives them an opportunity and a reason to get together. It’s an international conference so we get them from all around the world.”
What’s on the Agenda?
Hayashi highlights this year’s keynotes, workshops, emerging tech sessions, and professional development tracks—a mixture that hopes to support the needs of women in the industry.
The first day of the conference features a keynote from Leslie Griffin Robertson, vice president, User and Developer Experience, at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Candace Worley, McAfee’s vice president and chief technical strategist, will also deliver a keynote titled “Artificial Intelligence: The Human Factors We Must Consider.”
Day two will feature a “Data Driven Transformation” keynote from Victoria Mitchel, VP Technology Services Group, Arm Ltd., and a keynote from Brynn Watson, vice president, Digital Transformation Program.
Throughout the conference, visitors can attend sessions that pertain to a specific themed track, including executive leadership, empowerment, innovation, disruptive technology, and workshop.
To coalesce the community of tech-savvy women, what similarities were found in the hurdles they face throughout their careers? Hayashi points to an IEEE survey that spells out some of the metrics.
“It was sent to more than 6,000 women in technology,” she says. “In those responses, there is some room for things that they need to have happen. Part of that is the visibility, making sure women are recognized for what they do, and that they’re put in positions and roles that suit their level. There is still a lot of work to be done in technology fields to support women.”
The survey also had some opened-ended questions that asked survey respondents what can be done to fix the obstacles expressed. According to Hayashi, the writers of the survey had never seen so many responses to the open-ended responses before, and also noted the average length of each response was far greater than normal.
The community not only wants to provide information on career hurdles, but proactively proposes potential solutions.
For the IEEE WIE ILC’s future, Hayashi hopes to continue to grow its influence and strengthen the pool of sponsors with multi-year partnerships, “We’re able to put on this conference through the support of our sponsors, and I’d really like to have a strong sponsor base.”
As the event’s influence seeks growth, it’s supported by the passion inside each individual attendee. Hayashi added her own story to ECN’s “Why I Became an Engineer” blog series, which shares how and why individuals from across the globe entered the engineering field. (You can learn about all about Hayashi’s engineering beginnings in her blog submission titled “I Became an Engineer: Because I Drew a Flower.”)
That early passion has continued to evolve and grow to this day and seeps into the ILC’s overall purpose.
“I’m extraordinarily fortunate to be able to work on some of the latest emerging technologies,” she says. “I have a great support team, and you can see that women are supported, the technology is engaging, and it’s a great time to be in technology. There are so many amazing things going on.” In this modern digital age, she hopes to encourage those that share the same strong interest in the ever-developing dynamic field of technology.
For more STEM inspiration from those supporting the ILC initiative, read “I Became an Engineer: Because of a How-To Craft Podcast” from La Vesha Parker, senior software engineer & tech lead, Etsy. She’ll also be speaking at the 2019 IEEE WIE ILC on the topic of “Tech Leading Through the Unknown: Resiliency and Keeping the House Standing.”