The 2021 Statewide Summit on Women & Tech is an annual conference hosted by the IU Center of Excellence for Women & Technology which provides an opportunity to share, learn, engage with, and experience tech across a variety of skill levels and topics.  Programming during the event will be diverse and include sessions of interest to a wide range of audiences. 

This year’s event will be fully-virtual and will include multiple Keynote speakers covering a range of topics such as:

  • “Cyborg Dance Party”
  • “Data, AI and Power:  Lessons From Intersectional Feminism”
  • A Conversation with Jason Fagone, Author of “The Woman Who Smashed Codes” among others. 

We reached out to several of the Keynote speakers to pick their brains with some questions about their upcoming sessions at the Summit.

Meghan McGrath – Design Lead, IBM

Bio Info:

Working in tech is kind of like a cyborg dance party – coming into these tech spaces it can be fun and creative and exciting but also, like a cyborg dance party, it can be hard to jump in and bring your own flavor to the projects that we’re working on.”

We invite everyone to join us during the 2021 Summit to listen to Meghan’s Keynote as she addresses some of these challenges.

Jason Fagone – Journalist and Author- “The Woman Who Smashed Codes”

Bio Info:

How did you come to focus on writing a book about Cybersecurity and what really pulled your attention specifically to Elizebeth Friedman? 

“I started reading about the roots of the National Security Agency, which led me to William Friedman, and reading about William led me to his wife, Elizebeth. In many ways, of the two, she had the more interesting career in codebreaking. It was broader, more adventurous and more unexpected.

A lot of the Friedmans’ friends thought that Elizebeth was the smarter one … even William was convinced of it and told her so all the time.  Fundamentally, her story was just more fun to learn about.

She was a codebreaking Quaker poet who hunted Nazi spies. She was amazing. Hers was also the lesser known story because of how she was treated by the men in her field, and because of the deep secrecy of her WWII related work. As such, the challenge of trying to uncover these threads and weave them into some kind of tale that did her justice was, to me, really compelling and motivating.”

With regards to Cybersecurity, is the future “female”?  How should we encourage more young women to set their sights on careers in cybersecurity? 

“There are lots of amazing women and organizations working in this space to recruit, support and champion women in cybersecurity. I recently discussed Elizebeth Friedman and her legacy with the two young sisters who founded Code Equal ( when they were still in high school, and I was really impressed with their drive and creativity.

I think what I can add on this question is a perspective from having spent years in the archives, researching Elizebeth’s life. And that point of view is basically: Women have ALWAYS been doing this type of cybersecurity work. From the beginning they are there in the historical records. They often didn’t get recognized or thanked for it, but they were there, and the documents show it in black and white. As such women should never tolerate anyone telling them it’s “not their field”, or that they don’t have a place in it. That’s just false and ahistorical. They’ve always been there, doing excellent work. It’s always been their field.”

Lauren Klein – Director Digital Humanities Lab- Emory University & Co-Author – “Data Feminism”

Bio Info:

What was the driving factor that made you focus in on the topic of “Data Feminism” for your book? 

“My co-author Catherine and I both have longstanding commitments to feminist activism and critical thought. We thought there was a lot that feminism could contribute to the growing conversation about how to address biased datasets and algorithms, and how to imagine alternatives that are more just and equitable.”  

If you had to highlight just one significant thought or quote from the book, what would that quote be and why? What do you hope attendees take away from your talk during the Summit?

“We’re going to borrow a line from bell hooks here and say that ‘data feminism is for everybody.’ It takes more than one gender to have gender inequality, and it takes more than one gender to work towards justice. We hope that folks who listen to our talk will come away with a set of specific and actionable principles for applying feminist thinking to data work, as well as a set of inspiring examples of designers, artists, activists, and others who are already putting these principles into action.” 

In your opinion, what do you think is the greatest challenge to growing the number of women working in tech?  What are the struggles for women considering careers in tech and how do they differ from women in any other field which tends to lean more heavily male? 

“Historians of computing have helped us see that there have always been women in tech. One of the biggest challenges to growing the number of women working in tech is keeping them there! There is an enduring and unfortunate pattern of women being key innovators in all sorts of fields, but not having their knowledge truly valued because it comes from real-world experience instead of a formal credential. We see this in the division between home cooks and professional chefs, between midwives and OB-GYNs, and in so many technical fields. Data analysis used to be almost exclusively performed by women, but as the job has become rebranded as “data science,” women analysts have been pushed out by men with professional “data science” degrees. We’d encourage everyone in tech fields—and not just women—to tune themselves into the knowledge that comes from lived experience, value it, and reward it.”  

Something for Everyone

Regardless of your career path or whether you are a beginner or more advanced in the tech arena, the 2021 Statewide Summit for Women & Tech has something to offer everyone.  In addition to the Keynote speakers, this four-day event will include sessions focused on skill building, empowerment, leadership, networking, cybersecurity, AI, the Adobe suite, and equity/advocacy. 

This year’s fully virtual event will take place March 4-6 & 8. 

Visit the Summit Website for additional information about the event and to see the full schedule.  The Summit is free for all participants and you can attend the entire event or just pick and choose the sessions of interest to you. Register today!