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Women at work: Technology Leadership

Alan Flurry

There is perhaps no more-vital component in the Franklin College than our Office of Information Technology. Our colleagues in IT keep us connected to each other and the outside world, providing our students, faculty, researchers and staff the resources required for practically every activity at the university. We asked a group of colleagues in IT leadership in Franklin College to reflect on the centennial of women at UGA in the context working in IT.

As we celebrate 100 years of educating women at UGA, we, as an institution, also owe a debt of gratitude to the women who paved the way for female employment at UGA. The history of the Information Technology sector, in particular, is one that warrants special consideration. Franklin College Office of Information Technology is comprised 30% of women, which is significantly higher than the national average of 25%. Franklin OIT invests considerable effort in ensuring a diverse applicant pool and hiring committee in all IT jobs. What's even more compelling is that the leadership team is predominantly female at 70%, as compared to the national average of 11%. These ratios reflect deliberate efforts and a sustained commitment by the Franklin College to support a belief in the power of a diverse workforce. Our college embraces these ideals and puts them to work every day.
Despite the fact that women like Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper pioneered the IT field, women have largely been written out of IT history. Historical job titles such as Clerical and Data Entry Specialists were indicative of the early advent of IT as we know it today. These jobs were not considered interesting enough jobs for men to do, so women were delegated to the task of operating huge electromechanical computers that cracked codes, worked out military logistics, and the like. This kind of work was viewed as unskilled women's work. Career ladders were not expected for women, so they were the ideal retractable workforce.
All of this changed with the advent of the computing revolution of the 1970's. The world began to realize the amazing power behind computing technology, and suddenly it wasn't appropriate for women to be in charge of such power. The industry began to experience a shift in employment. Since the 70's, women's role in technology began to dwindle and the "bro-grammer" culture was born. This employment trend and the growing animus towards women in the information technology sector was a primary focus of the filmCODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. “A lot of women call it death by a thousand cuts, or microaggressions,” Robin Hauser Reynolds, Director & Producer of the documentary,  says. “It’s going to work every day and (having) to prove over and over, beyond what a man has to do, that you belong in that place.”
We feel so strongly about the value that women bring to the sector that we organized a viewing of the film and followed up with a discussion panel comprised of women in IT. The event brought people of all ages together to celebrate the resurgence of women in technology. We hope our efforts, as an organization, signal to others that Franklin OIT recognizes the value of a diverse workforce and is a supportive environment for women of all skill levels in IT. We want to celebrate the hard work of our organization to support women in careers at UGA, alongside women in education.
This letter was written in honor of all of the women in Franklin OIT
Beth Woods, Executive Director
Deborah Tonks, IT Manager
Stephanie Lynn, IT Senior Manager
Tiffany Linhardt, IT Senior Manager
Tiska Banks, Business Manager II
Image: From left: Tiska Banks, Tiffany Linhardt, Deborah Tonks, Stephanie Lynn and Beth Woods.

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