On March 8th, the world took a moment to honor women and their valuable contributions to our society all over the world in observance of International Women’s Day. And in the United States, the whole month of March is designated as Women’s History Month. What a great time to pay tribute to the valuable leadership and contributions of women and girls. Since this site is dedicated to business-building tips, tools and resources, this month, we’ll share a weekly post dedicated to recognizing women are leading the way in business.
There are so many women who have received awards, accolades and attention for their accomplishments. And for every woman who receives public acknowledgment, there are hundreds more who work daily in their homes, on their jobs and in their communities whom we don’t see, yet they are making a difference as well. Today, I simply want to join in on the celebration of women who make a difference by highlighting a few remarkable women whose stories are so inspiring, they just make you want to do better.
3 Women Who Are Fearlessly Living Their Dreams & Making ‘Her’-Story in Technology
Barbara Beskind, Tech Designer, IDEO
Her Story: Blazing Trail for More Women and Older People in Technology
Barbara Beskind is a success story in her own right. This 91-year old woman works in Silicon Valley with IDEO, a technology development company, as a tech designer! Barbara is a great example for women who want to find their place in the tech industry where women are underrepresented by 75% (1). What’s remarkable about Barbara’s story is she had always had a dream of becoming an inventor, but growing up in the 30’s and 40’s during the Great Depression, that was simply not an option since women were not trained in fields like engineering and computer science. Barbara, 91 at the time of this post, never gave up on her dream.
As her story goes, one day while watching David Kelly, founder of IDEO on television speaking about the importance of having a diversity on a design team, she sent in her resume to the Silicon Valley tech company – by snail mail, ironically – and guess what? She got the job!
Beskind’s story shatters stereotypes about age and technology as well. In fact, in her work with IDEO, she helps design products for the elderly such as wearable airbags and glasses with speakers to help people in her very age group. And this is the genius behind IDEO. Rather than overlook or discriminate against Barbara because of her age, they welcomed her and embraced her into their company where she gets to come in every Thursday and share her unique experience and ideas to help them make better products for the aging baby boomer population.
As quoted in her story with NPR News, Beskind says, “I enjoy the age I’m in. I think it’s one of the best chapters of my life.” (2)
Thank you Barbara Beskind for being a light in the tech field for women of every age and being brave enough to go after what you want with no excuses!
Watch Closely as Trailblazer Barbara Beskind Shares Her Story with NBC News
Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox
Her Story: first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 Company
Born and raised on the lower east side of New York, Ursula Burns’ first job was a cashier at Woolworths. Burns tells the story of growing up in the projects watching her mom struggle to provide for her family. Her story is one of not letting your current circumstances define you or confine you. Despite the fact that her family was poor, she was still able to go to college – a decision that would have a major impact on her future success. Burns attended Polytechnic Institute of New York on a scholarship and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. After interning with Xerox the summer of 1980 and obtaining a Masters from Columbia University, burns was hired at Xerox in and has been with the company ever since. Today, Ursula operates as the CEO of Xerox, a role passed on to her by the first woman to ever fill the role, Anne Mulcahy. Burns success stories with Xerox include (3,4):
- Burns was part of a small group of executives who rescued Xerox from near bankruptcy in 2001 and was instrumental in shifting the company away from its machine-making roots into a leader in color technology and document services
- Burns became chairman of the Xerox board, leading the more than 140,000 people of Xerox who serve clients in more than 180 countries.
- Burns also serves as board director of American Express Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation.
- Burns is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S.’s education system in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Watch as Ursula Shares on Making History (Courtesy The Makers Channel sponsored by PBS)
“I realized what the executives did, and the difference between me and them were not that big.” ~Ursula Burns
Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code
Her Story: Founded Nonprofit Organization to Educate and Prepare Girls for Tech careers
Paving the way for women to have a place in computer science and coding, Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code to encourage and empower girls to pursue careers in engineering and technology. Reshma’s story begins with her parents who came to the United States as refugees who fled the violence of Idi Amin’s Uganda. As her story goes, Reshma was also a victim of violence herself, as she was beaten by two of her middle school classmates who called her a racial slur and bullied her because of her ethnicity. Like the other women portrayed here, that’s not how Reshma’s story ends. To educate her peers and help them understand people of different ethnicities, Reshma formed a diversity club in high school. With a passion for public advocacy, Saujani studied law and politics at Yale, and went on to found Girls Who Code.
Girls Who Code
With the aggressive goal of providing “computer science education and exposure to 1 million young women by 2020,” Girls Who Code’s vision is to close the gender gap in computing fields. The premise behind educating girls in areas of computer science, technology and engineering is simple: The younger girls are when they learn about these fields, the more opportunities they have to pursue professions in science, math and technology. The nonprofit organization offers educational programs in robotics, web design, and mobile development. Each program is led by a mentor and introduces the girls to top leadership and entrepreneurs in tech and engineering companies. Currently programs are offered in 5 cities nationwide.
Whether you have a career in technology or not, allow the stories of these women to inspire you to success in your own respective field. Technology has a major impact in the way you work and connect with people in your everyday life. Thanks to women like Barbara Beskind, Ursula Burns, Reshma Saujani, women get to be present at the table and help make decisions so that a woman’s voice is heard – and that’s worth celebrating and appreciating.
Watch and Listen to Reshma’s Vision (courtesy of She ++)
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen!” I’m taking the charge. Will you?
“Women are leaders everywhere you look — from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household.” ~Nancy Pelosi
1. Gender Equality in Tech
2. Read More of Barbara Beskind’s Story at NPR
3. HowUrsula Burns Reinvented Xerox, Fast Company
4. Ursula Burns Executive Bio
5. Reshma Saujani’s Ambitious Plan for Technology
6. Read More About Girls Who Code