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Women techies unite.

The tech sector has taken its hits in 2001, and maybe that's why female techies seem to be organizing like never before. At least two new Front Range organizations have formed and another is staging a national convention in Denver in June.

The matriarch of the bunch is the Society of Women Engineers. It was started in 1949 and currently has 15,000 members nationwide. The Rocky Mountain Chapter, established in 1954, is hosting this year's convention for the first time since 1976. Jill Tietjen, a tech/engineering author and speaker who runs Technically Speaking LLC out of the Denver Tech Center, is an SWE national past president and the 2001 national conference co-chair.

"Engineering remains the most male-dominated field of any professional career," she said. "In 2000, approximately 20 percent of engineers graduating with undergraduate degrees are women. Overall, less than 10 percent of the engineering workforce is female."

Another group, Colorado Women in Technology (CWIT), was started in 1997. Cara Hart, the current president, explains the need for her organization: "A lot of the way things get done in business, and especially in tech, is through networking. Much of this is still an 'old boys' club.' Eventually, this will transition - we will all see that men and women are capable of working in the tech fields, but we're not there yet. In the meantime, having an 'old girls' club' can pick up some slack."

She added, "One of the reasons joined CWIT in the first place was that it was nice to be in a room full of women whose eyes didn't glaze over when I talked about what I do for a living. There are plenty of women's groups, both social and professional, but I like the added benefit of hanging out with women with whom I can talk shop."

A similar group, started in 1999, is the Denver chapter of Women in Technology International (WITI). Part of a national organization, the local chapter focuses on the area of the Denver Tech Center because, noted Ellen Schulz, regional director, "most of its board members work there."

January marked the startup of another group, Colorado Springs Women & Technology (CSWAT). Winnie Shows and Essica Williams, executive director of the Colorado Institute of Technology Transfer and Implementation (CITTI), got it going.

Explained Shows, "I spent 17 years in Silicon Valley doing high-tech PR. When I arrived in the Springs at the end of last summer, I attended a number of professional meetings for women, but missed the technology environment."

Gail Richards, a CSWAT board member, gave another reason why the group has found an audience. "Mothers have expressed an interest. They do not have technical professions themselves but want their daughters to have good role models."

A second group to start in January was the Colorado chapter of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE). Susan Osborne and Cynthia Ryan relocated from Los Angeles to start it because, according to Osborne, Colorado had "no organization specifically targeting high tech/biotech women founders/CEOs and senior management team members."

One of the major goals of FWE is to help members expand their financing options. "Nationally, 38 percent of new businesses are women-led companies, but only 6 percent of venture capital goes to them," Osborne said.

Last year FWE sponsored Springboard 2000, the first venture capital forum showcasing women entrepreneurs. Lu Cordova, the new president of the Boulder Technology Incubator, made a presentation at that event and found it invaluable in generating publicity about her company, Acteva.

"Women network differently, and the gains to be made from a women's network are formidable," Cordova said. "They can make one's path easier, the vision clearer, the success broader and the journey more rewarding."
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Title Annotation:women in technology conventions
Author:LAINSON, SUZANNE
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:618
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