I remember attending my first MicroStrategy World eight years ago, and being one of only a handful of women at the conference. I was only a couple of years out of University so this was all new territory for me, and of course it was striking how few women were represented – a sight I would soon get accustomed to in boardrooms and customer meetings. The analytics world was very much male dominated, and as a young female professional I had to learn to navigate the space. However, as the years went on and I continued to attend World, slowly I started to notice the trickle of more and more women attending.
This year was completely different. As a part of the 20th year of MicroStrategy World, a women’s networking event was held. I must admit, when I saw it on the agenda, I questioned if they would be able to even fill a room. It came as a relief to hear that over 540 women were attending World this year, a large number despite being a small fraction of the total 3,500 attendees.
The event featured a panel of five very intelligent women in executive level positions for very large companies and led by MicroStrategy’s Executive VP of North American Sales, Susan Cook. It was inspiring to hear these women talk about how they overcame their trepidation to make their voice heard in a male dominated boardroom, how they moved up in the industry and their role models over the years. One interesting question that Susan asked the panel was: “can you tell us about a female role model who helped shape your career?” It was not overly surprising that only one woman out of the five was able to answer this. The rest had great stories about men who influenced their careers, but in their early careers there simply weren’t women to look up to in tech – which is what makes these pioneering women’s stories so important. If young women don’t recognize themselves as being active in technological fields, they will be discouraged from trying to enter the space at all. Attitudes are clearly changing, however, and I would hope that if this question was asked in 20 years everyone would have a story to tell.
All in all, it’s great to see the commitment in many organizations to helping women to become interested in and enter previously male dominated fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math. MicroStrategy also hosted a 5K run at World supporting STEM For Her, a cause that empowers and supports women to enter STEM careers. I was hesitant at first because of the 6am start time (after all, you don’t get enough sleep at these conferences in general), but I am glad I kicked myself awake and contributed to this cause. I have worked in the analytics environment for most of my professional career and know all too well that still a lot still must change; I can’t count the number of times I have entered a boardroom, meeting, or even an event and was the only woman attending. It can be distracting at times, but over time I realized in finding my confidence and voice that whether female or male we are all speaking the same language and working towards the same goal. I felt empowered during World this year with their focus on women in STEM, and with more women pursuing careers in technology I hope that one day I will look around and see a more even distribution.
For more of our insights from World 2017, visit our World summary page.