Arkansas Economic Development Commission

Women in Technology Gaining Attention in Arkansas

December 5, 2017

AEDC highlights women in techEarlier this fall, the Women in Technology Conference drew 500 participants, as part of the fourth-annual Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit in Rogers. The Summit, produced by the Northwest Technology Council under the direction of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, brought together small business owners, entrepreneurs and C-level executives as well as leaders in academia, communications, retail and supply, social media and technology to focus on innovation and the power of digital in shaping the future of the tech industry in Arkansas.

The one-day Women in Technology Conference offered speakers and discussions on thought leadership and innovation, as well as the opportunities and challenges faced by women in today’s technology workforce.

Focusing on women in tech is critical, according to Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology. Women leave tech companies twice as quickly as men, she said, and 56 percent of women technologists exit companies while in mid-level positions.

“[Women] want to make a difference,” Whitney said. “They leave because they don’t see a way to advance.”

There isn’t an absence of ambition in women, but the lack of opportunities to make an impact within the companies drives many women out of the industry, she says.

Recommendations from the Anita Borg Institute for Businesses to retain talent include creating an inclusive culture, holding leaders accountable, and developing and promoting women. The institute’s recent white paper, “Advancing Women Technologists into Positions of Leadership,” finds that women in technical roles bring improved operational and financial performance, increased innovation, better problem-solving and group performance, and enhanced company reputation.

The Women in Technology Conference attracted high profile speakers, all of whom understand the growing tech industry in Arkansas and the need for women in tech. Tracy Kerrins, a Bank of America executive, made the point that all businesses are now becoming technology businesses. She said as technology becomes embedded in all facets of society, being in the technology business is inevitable.

Speaking of Bank of America, Kerrins said, “We’re a financial services business but we’re really in the business of tech. Bank of America has more online web users than Pandora and more mobile users than Uber. And it’s not unique to banking,” she said. “The world is evolving. Everything is tech-based.”

And anyone who is a tech user is a tech advocate, she said. Tech advances in the finance industry are based on customers’ expectations. “However you’re interacting in your day-to-day, that becomes the new standard,” she said, talking about mobile banking.

Mobile deposits were introduced in 2012 and now make up about 75 percent of deposits at Bank of America, she said. Consumers expect to be able to do things on the go.

The Women in Technology Conference featured breakout sessions on topics that ranged from general and specific tech issues with industry-wide implications, to talks directly with female technologists on how they can navigate the tech arena, and those giving insight to companies on ways to address the issue of underrepresentation of women.

Topics included Artificial Intelligence, Leading the Go To Market Transformation, Navigating Sticky Situations with Dignity and Respect, The Why and How Women Supporting Women is the Innovation We Need, and The Future of Native Apps. 

Other speakers included IBM Distinguished Engineer Lisa Seacat Deluca; former Wal-Mart Stores tech executive Rita Carney; and Ellen Dowd, senior vice president of social innovation business at Hitachi.