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Networking event shines the spotlight on tech women

Jiliany Gonzalez, 5, of Harmon STEM school, attended the recent Women in Tech event.
Published Apr. 1, 2015

Though technology's influence continues to grow, the role of women in the field is not keeping pace.

The Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative held its inaugural Women in Tech event Monday at the Seminole Heights Library to create networking opportunities and raise awareness of the impact women can have.

According to the American Association of University Women's report, "Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics," "women make up 14 percent of the engineering workforce and just over 25 percent of the computing workforce."

The AAUW also found that women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to 26 percent.

More specific to Hillsborough County, the Economic Development Department found that there are "36,892 STEM jobs and 25.3 percent of those workers are women."

"Role models have been missing," said Terri Willingham, regional director for FIRST STEM education programs in Central Florida.

Gender stereotypes is another reason for the disproportionate number of women to men in the STEM fields.

"It's a male- dominated world, but women just have to showup and be there," said Akira Mitchell, Techstart program and event director. "Having women in the community that exude that confidence, the girl power becomes addicting."

Willingham agrees that women have to advocate for themselves in the male-dominated field.

"We have to open the door, though things can hold us back we have to fight the fight," Willingham said

Girls that represent that fight were present at the event including a FIRST robotics high school team led by Hillsborough High School math teacher, Marian Manganello.

Now in its sixth year, it is the first time the team of 50 has an equal number of boys and girls.

"They're bringing their friends in," said Manganello, pointing to the five girls, playing with a robot behind her.

Just as the event stands out in the technology community, the way it was organized did as well.

Rather than having one keynote speaker, there was PechaKucha-style presentations. Japanese for "chit-chat," each of the five speakers played 20 slides and had 20 seconds to speak on each.

Speakers included Cheryl Wolfe, web content designer for Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Libraries; Diana Rendina, a media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet; Deborah Neff, director of operations at Tampa Bay Wave; and Luisa Bracamonte, an MBA faculty and career coach at the University of Tampa.

Contact Arielle Waldman at awaldman@tampabay.com or follow her @ariellewaldman.

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