Closing out the longest vacation of my life to date (3 weeks), I stopped for a few days on the way back from India in Chicago, where I was able to attend not one, but two, Salesforce conferences (and enjoy some Chicago Deep Dish pizza)! The first conference was the one that started all the community events, Midwest Dreamin’, and the second was the first ever Salesforce conference focusing on Women in Tech, WITness Success.
Even though Midwest Dreamin’ had many other focuses other than WIT, I found myself drawn to the ones that focused on it anyway. It included a keynote by Ayori Selassie speaking about AI/Einstein and a session that really made me focus on my privilege, led by Shonnah Hughes and Rakia Finley. This session had each attendee fill out a privilege card, and then asked you to try to form a group subject to some rules. It was definitely a unique experience as I checked more and more boxes and realized how many things I take for granted, that other people don’t have, and how many things I don’t even think about that affect people negatively on a regular basis.
After the conclusion of Midwest Dreamin, it was time for the first ever WITness Success, a conference focused on Women in Tech across the Salesforce community. After an Allies dinner, the opening keynote was none other than Ayori once again! She shared some of her experiences and talked about how she is passing on lessons to her daughter about how to thrive in society.
Later we heard from Nora Poggi, who produced a documentary on tech companies founded by women.
We also heard from Cheryl Porro, SVP of Technology and Product Delivery at Salesforce, who shared a truly inspirational and personal story, of her journey to get to where she is today. She also shared some insightful statistics on why gender diversity is so imperative.
While all of these women had things in common both with me and with each other, it was clear that in their own ways, they had to fight far ever than I ever had to in order to accomplish what they had achieved. I left after the speakers, having been truly inspired.
In the afternoon, I attended a few other sessions, and in more than 1, experienced what it felt like to be the only person of my gender in the room, something I imagined was a frequent occurrence for many of my fellow conference-goers. While it was uncomfortable at first, I’m glad I got to experience what that was like. It definitely opened my eyes a bit and gave me a much better appreciation of what women in tech probably experience on a regular basis.
I attended a few different panels where women shared their unique experiences of achieving success in the male dominated tech industry.
It is so exciting to see the increasing number of success stories across the Women in Tech community. Also amazing to know how powerful the community is within the Salesforce Ohana. This conference was also important as it took place the same day as the violent riots by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. If nothing else, that proved that it is more important now than ever to continue supporting diversity and inclusion. I am thankful for everyone that had a hand in putting the conference together as well as giving me this very insightful experience. Without a doubt, I truly WITnessed success!
As the conference was wrapping up, and I realized I had picked up a shirt that was a bit too form fitting for my taste (again giving me empathy for what many at the conference experience on a regular basis) I had a few take-a-ways.
- We have a long way to go in the fight for gender equality
- Walking in someone else’s shoes for even just a couple of hours will give you a tremendous insight into where they’re coming from
- There are many things that everyone can do to help today
If you are interested in learning more about helping in the fight for gender equality, there are a few things I would suggest. If you’re in a position of influence, consider following Salesforce’s lead and looking into the gender pay gap at your company. Think about different recruiting pools you can tap into in order to help make your workforce more diverse.
If you’re more of an individual contributor, consider looking at your own professional network and see if you’re getting influenced by a diverse group of people. One way to help with this, may be to play Mary Scotton’s Diversity Your Feed Bingo.
If you’re really inspired, you can even be like Abhilasha Singh and many other amazing WIT leaders and help organize your own WIT events, as they did across India one week after the WITness Success conference!
After attending the first ever WITness Success conference, I would love to be able to attend in 2018 and hope you’ll all join me! It’s taking place in Denver, Colorado on July 27th-28th. Be sure to follow @WITnessSuccess for all the updates. Hope to see you there!