It’s a wired world for Calgary women, who now have at least three all-female networking groups for high-tech women working in the IT patch.
But the founder of the Wired Woman chapter in Calgary says the three complement, not compete, with each other.
“We believe there is room for all these groups in Calgary,” says Lori Muldowney. “Our mandate is very specific — through networking, events and education programs, to provide women and young girls with opportunities to explore careers in the IT and new media industries and to enable them to succeed in their careers.”
Two other groups — Women In Technologies International (WITI) and High Tech Women For the 21st Century (HTW21C), also organize events and networking sessions for their members and the community at large.
The local Wired Woman Society (WWS) chapter, which was initiated a year ago and is revving up a membership drive, is one of the offshoots of the Wired Woman Society, a volunteer-run organization founded in Vancouver in 1996 by a group of women who wanted to help other women build successful careers in the information technology area.
“My vision for this chapter is to integrate women working in this technology area with girls and young women who are moving into it, or could be moving into it in the future,” says Muldowney, who is president of Dark Horse Strategies, a management consulting firm specializing in strategic business, marketing and technology planning.
But the Calgary WWS chapter still faces challenges, not the least of which is finding a regular roster of volunteers to help organize events.
“Calgary has been a little slower in developing its membership,” for Wired Woman, acknowledges Muldowney, adding she’s been working to develop regular forums and the club’s online LISTSERV.
WWS also plans to set up educational program to help women and girls learn about their computers, design Web pages and expose them to other women who have been successful in IT careers such as systems and data administration and computer programming.
Having three IT women’s groups in Calgary doesn’t faze Sarah Hargreaves, regional director for WITI in Calgary. “I think we’re appealing to different crowds,” she says, adding WITI is made up of mostly professional women working high-end jobs in the downtown core.
Founded in 1995, WITI is an U.S.-based international organization with more than 6,000 members, mostly working in the areas of science and technology. The Calgary group, the first WITI chapter in Canada, had its initial meeting in the spring, and is now holding regular evening meetings for its members.
WWS, which has 1,000 members across Canada, doesn’t have any male members – although some men attend meetings, but “we do not exclude men in any way,” says Muldowney.
“Occasionally men do attend our meetings and they react in just the same way as all of the men who encounter WWS. Men working in IT tend to be extremely supportive of WWS initiatives.”
WITI, on the other hand, welcomes male members. “Women are not the only people who advance women in technology, and especially with the way things are right now, we’d like men to be part of advancing women in technology,” says Hargreaves. “And I think we need their support in doing so.”
HTW21C is made up of about 50 Calgary women who work with computers and IT, and is focused on networking, mentoring and resource information sharing. Like WITI, membership in High-Tech Women is inclusive, open to both men and women.
Hargreaves is realistic about the chances of three womens’ groups surviving. “I think one of them will probably be amalgamated with another one, or one might die,” she says. “The chances of three starting up and all working, you never know. We’ll see how it flies this year.”
Muldowney says forming partnerships and developing programs with the other groups is an important goal for Wired Woman and she’s looking forward to getting even more young Calgary women plugged into their wired — and wireless — future.
Women In Technologies International (WITI) witi.org/center/regionalchapter/calgary/
High Tech Women For the 21st Century (HTW21C) http://members.hometown.aol.com/_ht_a/htw21c/
Wired Woman Calgary www.wiredwoman.com/calgary/home.html