Building a community of women who work in technology – hosted by Betsy Speare, Jennifer Marsman & Helene Love Snell

Archive for the ‘Attracting new women to technology’ Category

DeVry HerWorld: Barbie’s been introduced to careers in STEM! Next stop? High school juniors and seniors in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Colton

I’m tickled to welcome Alice back this week to talk about encouraging women to join the technology boom! She reminds us of the importance to encourage girls in their pursuit of STEM related interests… AND she’ll be speaking over the next month to hundreds of high school girls at the DeVry HerWorld events. Welcome back Alice and thanks for the inspiration! Since she reminded me I took my 5 year old with me today to get my taxes done – explaining that our CPA was getting PAID for doing MATH. She really dug that – Math is her favorite subject!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (total 3 now – getting eggs)!

Here’s a bit about our guest blogger this week, Alice Pang:

Alice grew up in Louisiana and came out to sunny California after high school to attend Stanford University, where she received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering/Software. She then moved across the bay to get her M.S. degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research/Management of Technology through the Haas School of Business and College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. While at Stanford and Berkeley, she was heavily involved in various dance groups and enjoyed organizing networking, mentoring, and community outreach events for the Society of Women Engineers.

In her free time, she enjoys traveling, discovering new places to eat, rock climbing, learning aerial silk tricks, riding motorcycles, and sharing Louisiana and Chinese culture with her friends. As a Microsoft Developer Evangelist, she focuses on WebMatrix. You can follow her on Twitter @alicerp and her MSDN blog at”

DeVry HerWorld: Barbie’s been introduced to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)! Next stop? High school juniors and seniors in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Colton

Christmas 2010 present from a friend. What does it say about me when I quickly noticed that her monitor says “Barbie” in binary-Ascii?

When I was in middle school, I remember being told by a boy that I couldn’t possibly be good enough at math to even place in the top 10 at a district competition, because he figured the winner would be male.  A month later I placed first against the top Calculus students in the state of Louisiana.

The boy wasn’t the only one to suggest that perhaps men have an innate ability in math and science—an unfortunate statement, since I have seen proof of phenomenal, bright women in K-12 and collegiate education and in my professional career.  I’ve often sat in my engineering classes and noticed that I am only one of two females in a class of 50+, and I wonder why there are so few women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.  I have spoken with women who point out that they were not exposed to the idea of pursuing a STEM career early on or found their passions in other disciplines; it is not by any means due to an innate difference in ability between men and women. Women who choose to study in a STEM field can make an impact on the community and achieve ambitious goals in technology. It is imperative to recognize that women could really use the support to be leaders in our chosen pursuits.

In order to take a step in the right direction, we should all be involved in promoting women in STEM fields on three career levels: K-12, college, and professional. Introducing math and science in a fun and interactive way to primary and secondary school students exposes them to the possibilities in technology. Supporting collegiate and professional women is important for fostering a positive environment for us to excel in male-dominated fields.  Mentoring relationships, public awareness events, and outreach opportunities are a few ways to encourage career growth for women in technology.

In the next few weeks, I’m excited to be speaking to hundreds of high school junior and senior girls at DeVry HerWorld events.  In addition to sharing my personal experience, I plan to convince them of how exciting technology can be and the variety of STEM roles.  Hopefully, they will be inspired by and understand the significance of Barbie’s transition from, “Math class is hard,” to Computer Engineer.

March 22: Las Vegas, NV
March 28: Los Angeles, CA
April 12: Colton, CA


HerWorld is an interactive workshop given by DeVry University to high school juniors and seniors across the country each year during National HerWorld Month. It introduces these young women to career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. Through a series of games, hands-on projects and live discussions with successful women from top companies in the local community, HerWorld inspires young women to use their talents and interests to succeed, and how to best prepare for college in order to achieve their aspirations.

Perspective from the start up community: how women can win there too…

Wondering what happened to the Women in Tech the last few weeks? Well we’ve been BUSY! Helene and I are both full throttle in the Windows Server team which just released Windows Server 8 Beta! My goodness – it feels like shipping – fun!! There was also a really great write up a few weeks back in the Microsoft News Center with a great picture of me in my PJs with my daughter & nieces… also featuring co-workers Jeffrey Snover and (my boss) Erin Chapple – check it out! Last, I am still looking for GUEST BLOGGERS – male or female – got a topic? Related to tech? Written by a woman? Or about women? That counts. Send me your post.  Love getting the broader perspectives…

This week’s post is introduced by one of the blogs co-founders, Helene, shown below with her mini-me! This is a great post. It lines up nicely with work being done to support women in tech in the bay area by an organization called Women 2.0. It’s cool stuff and reminds me of the book the WLC co-founders read in 2003 called “She Wins, You Win.” It really set the tone for establishing our community and has continued to influence us in supporting each other in our interests and goals. Back to the blog – this is also great for people trying to make corporate experiences for women better – good thoughts on how we may stereotype women in start-ups that apply to corporate as well.

This week we welcome a new guest blogger, and former colleague of mine, Kristal Bergfield. Kristal’s blog Corporate Refugee, discusses her new adventures in the Start up Tech Industry in New York, and her break away from a large corporation (American Express). In her own words, Kristal is a marketer, connector, and deal maker. Today’s post addresses some of the preconceived challenges that moms face at start-ups… or do they?
Read for yourself and let me know what you think….


I’m Kristal Bergfield. I’m a marketer. connector, and deal maker. I love entrepreneurs, start ups, tech, media & the Oregon Ducks. I run the NYC Tech BD Breakfast Series. I also cook more than most people and possess an abnormally vast knowledge of pop culture trivia.

Moms & Start-ups: Yes We Can!

I’ve been reading a lot of things lately about women – specifically mothers – in start ups and how they shouldn’t do start ups because they want “flexibility”(whatever that is), and can’t possibly work “start up hours” (whatever those are). From Penelope Trunk’s intentionally provocative TechCrunch article telling women NOT to do start ups, to the sexist reaction to Alison Lindland‘s request to the NYTM mailing list to meet other expectant moms at NY start ups, the message to moms seems to be that they can’t possibly be a good parent and an A player at a start up.

So, um, folks: get over yourselves. Because guess what? I (and other moms see: Beth Ferreira, Jane Kim, Emily Hickey, Naama Bloom, Maxine Friedman and many more) are doing it and, frankly, it’s not that hard. I think this is because moms who choose to work at start ups have self selected into something they know they can handle. We don’t want flexibility. We don’t want to work part time. We aren’t just there to make a buck. We’re there for the same reason everyone else is: because we want to build something that matters.

I’ve been a mom for almost six years now. Most of that time, I worked at American Express, a huge company that’s known for it’s family friendly policies. Folks in the start up world seem to think – for the most part – that working there entailed working 9-5 Monday through Friday with unlimited resources, a cushy office and a fat paycheck. And, for moms, we got “flexibility”. Um, no, no, no, no, and hellz to the eff no. Amex has many fine qualities, but it ain’t all wine and roses and none of those things were my reality. For me, working at start ups has been EASIER than working at a big company.

Whether it’s a big company or the scrappiest of start-ups, people choose the life and lifestyle they want. So, if someone wants to work flexible hours or work part time, be up front about it and find the appropriate opportunity (most likely not at a start-up). If you want to work at a start up, as the great philosopher Tim Gunn would say, “make it work”.

So yes, moms can work at start-ups. No, we can’t play fooz ball or go out to lunch as often because we need to get more done during “normal business hours”. Yes, we have to leave at 5:30 a few times a week to relieve the nanny by 6. If we don’t, child protective services will. And frankly, when we arrive at the office at 8:30am after getting two kids and ourselves out of the house, we’re turning on the lights at work. No, we’re not always at work until 10pm (but if needed, we will be), we’re at home on our laptops after we’ve put the kids to bed doing what needs to be done. And yes, we can go to evening events and hell yes we can travel because we jump at the chance to spend a night in a hotel room blissfully alone. Hell, I recently attended a hackathon on a Sunday after baking an apple pie from scratch. How many of you have done that?

If a mom wants to work at your start up, assume she’s been smart enough to do her due diligence and knows that it can be a wild ride and has set up her life accordingly. And if she’s the best candidate, hire her.

How to earn $100,000+ and fund your undergraduate Computer Science/Engineering education:

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

Betsy-Speare_thumb1_thumbThis is a fun post – an opportunity for us to reach out to the young women we know and encourage them to pursue computer science and engineering – these young women will have a huge impact on the world.  My niece, Kiersten is attending the University of North Dakota and recently asked me about my degree in CS.    So, this is for her as well as all the other smart, amazing young women that you know.  Forward it!  Women in Technology aren’t just the current ones, but the future ones as well! Smile

Here’s a bit about our guest blogger this week, Alice Pang:

imageAlice grew up in Louisiana and came out to sunny California after high school to attend Stanford University, where she received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering/Software.  She then moved across the bay to get her M.S. degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research/Management of Technology through the Haas School of Business and College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.  While at Stanford and Berkeley, she was heavily involved in various dance groups and enjoyed organizing networking, mentoring, and community outreach events for the Society of Women Engineers. 

In her free time, she enjoys traveling, discovering new places to eat, rock climbing, learning aerial silk tricks, riding motorcycles, and sharing Louisiana and Chinese culture with her friends.  As a Microsoft Developer Evangelist, she focuses on WebMatrix.  You can follow her on Twitter @alicerp and her MSDN blog at”

So you’ve gotten into the school of your dreams, but it happens to come with a pretty hefty price tag. This is the dilemma I faced when I got into Stanford xyears ago as a high school senior. I began to furiously look for scholarships from various sources online and in the community. Having taken AP Computer Science courses, I also had a pretty good idea that I wanted to major in Computer Science/Engineering. Little did I know, there was a plethora of funding opportunities for women in technology.

My personal experiences in school and in the workforce reiterated to me the fact that women are still nowhere near 50% in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Many companies, engineering societies, and individuals are working to increase the number of graduates (and in many cases, women) in Computer Science/Engineering by offering scholarships. For my undergraduate career alone, I managed to earn over thirty merit-based outside scholarships, totaling over $100,000 to cover my tuition at Stanford. A separate post on earning graduate fellowships (and more specifically, NSF and NDSEG) will follow on my MSDN blog (

I’ve been asked by many people tips on applying to scholarships, and I’m always happy to help. I firmly believe that money should never stop anyone from learning. Now I’m excited to reveal all my secrets! Whether or not you’re majoring in a STEM field, whether you’re male or female, I hope you’ll get some useful advice out of this article. But I will be posting more specific tips for female students in technology and be completely honest in what has personally worked for me.

Why should I care?

Apart from the obvious benefit of getting more money for school, earning scholarships actually helps build your resume when you prepare for internship and job interviews. A lot of scholarships also offer all-expense paid trips to network with other motivated individuals like you. For example, Google sent me to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Orlando (at the Hilton Walt Disney Resort) and Qualcomm flew me down to San Diego for valuable job interview seminars and a visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Additionally, these companies are potentially your future employers (as is my case with Microsoft). You may also get unique opportunities to appear in local and national media (like USA Todayfor the All-Academic Team).

anita borg party
Thanks Google!
I’m the featured profile of 2007:

Sounds good! How do I get started?

Start with scholarships offered at your school. I’ve had friends who have had a lot of success with this at other schools. It never hurts to ask faculty and do extra research on your school website. Stanford didn’t offer any merit-based aid, only need-based aid, a philosophy which I fully support; because, like I said, money should never stop anyone from pursuing his/her education. The Financial Aid Office always encouraged us to search for outside scholarships to supplement the financial aid packages. If you can fund all of it with outside scholarships, you can worry less about finding funds for the remainder of that big tuition bill. However, this takes time and is easier said than done. It takes a lot of time and research. But if you can do this successfully, it’s more worthwhile than working multiple part-time jobs and trying to pay off student loans after graduation.

Look at scholarship search engines.

There are a ton of scholarships out there for students of different backgrounds and interests—it’s not all about academic scholarships. There are scholarships for community involvement, leadership, essay contests, book reviews, video contests, etc. You just have to be interested in something. I’ve applied for any and every scholarship that I qualified for on these search engines and other competitions I found online. Heck, I’ve even had a brief run as a Miss America preliminary contestant and earned some scholarship money as second runner-up to Miss San Francisco, which, to be honest, did not have as high an ROI (return on investment) compared to other scholarship programs, but was nevertheless a good experience for a number of other reasons. Here are a few scholarship search engines I used as a starting point:

It will take a lot of time to sift through them, because even with the filters, I found that most of them didn’t really apply to me. Don’t get discouraged by the amount of time it takes, because it could be well worth your time.

Look for scholarships being awarded in the community and in organizations with which you are affiliated.

Ask and look around in local newspapers and specific organizations to see if there are any scholarships being given in the community. Many local organizations and companies like to honor individuals who have some potential connection to them. Just to give you some ideas, I was eligible for and very fortunate to have been awarded scholarships for competing in math tournaments, building a website with my friend for Mu Alpha Theta to help students learn Calculus, being a member of a local credit union, being the daughter of an ACAP (Association of Chinese-American Professionals) member, demonstrating exemplary community service and leadership to a local chapter of a sorority, etc.

And now, for a trick that has proven to be the most useful but I’m also a little embarrassed to admit…

To be honest, the previous steps combined have not gotten me as far as this next one. After searching and applying for general scholarships, it’s time to target your search to Computer Science/Engineering-specific scholarships, which often offer a lot more money than other sources. Not to say that these scholarships are more important than others, as everyone who awards you a scholarship plays an invaluable and significant role in your education, but certain large tech companies may have more money to support education.

So here’s something that other scholarship guides won’t tell you, and it’s helped me immensely. When you do find a scholarship specific to a STEM field, take note of a few of the winners. You can also find someone at your current or future school, someone who appears to have similar academic interests. Then (if you don’t know him or her or have contact info) do a Bing search on that person and see what other scholarships he or she has won. Chances are it will be a similar scholarship, and you’ve now added more potential scholarships to your scholarship list.

Stay organized and start early.

Start early! If you’re in high school, don’t wait until you’re in college to start applying. A lot of awards can be won in high school, and that will get you more recognition for future scholarships. Scholarship applications will often ask for a list of your awards; it’s a nice snowball effect. Once you win one, you can use it to back up your qualifications for your next application, and so on.

Be organized! I kept a calendar specifically for scholarships and deadlines and organized the files on my computer appropriately. It’s pretty easy once you write a few essays, because you can just recycle and modify them for other applications.

Don’t ever pay for a scholarship or to apply to one.

Don’t ever pay to apply for a scholarship. Don’t fall for anything that claims you get free scholarships by paying a nominal fee. I don’t think these are legitimate, because scholarships should be earned without having to pay for anything.

It takes more than good grades.

You knew this when you applied to college, but scholarship win rates are often significantly lower than college admissions rates; so you have to step up your game. Be involved in engineering and computer science societies and clubs. Take on leadership roles beyond your school. Build your network in the tech community, though it’s also always good to show that you balance out your academic and pre-professional career with extracurricular activities. My local and national roles in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has proven to be an invaluable experience of networking, community, and outreach opportunities, not to mention personal growth.

Make sure you spend your summers doing something meaningful that helps you attain your academic and career goals. For high school students, this can be summer camps (free or scholarship-funded is generally better). For college students, this can be internships and research. I can’t remember a summer where I haven’t done anything. Whatever you do, make sure you are truly passionate about it so you can talk and write about it.

ec activities collage
clockwise, from top left: dancing with the Fei Tian Dancers (photograph courtesy of Edith Han), having fun at the Olympics while interning at Nokia Research Center in Beijing, showing off our Mobius strip tattoos at National Youth Science Camp, getting ready for a tour of DC at the SWE Collegiate Leadership Forum, building a binary clock at the Stanford Summer Engineering Academy, singing an original song about the well-ordering principle at the Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists

Be wise about your recommendations and ask for references early.

In high school, I almost made the mistake of going with the toughest teacher in my high school just because everyone asked her to write a letter for college admissions. She invited requests for references. She was the AP English teacher, so she can write well, and more importantly, write me a pretty awesome rec, right? Well I’m glad I didn’t, because to be honest, I really did not stand out in English class; I ended up going with teachers whom I felt were more likely to express how I shined in the class. So just be sure to talk with anyone who writes you a reference with your goals in mind. Provide a resume and a document of additional accomplishments and extracurricular involvement, with which he or she may not be familiar. Choose someone who will really remember you in ten years or more. Someone who truly believes that you are an outstanding individual. It does not have to be a teacher. I mean, you should have at least one, but consider the coordinator of some activity in which you’re involved, a research supervisor, etc. And be sure to ask at least two weeks in advance, though I like to give my recommenders a month with increasingly frequent friendly reminders as the deadline approaches.

Be yourself in interviews.

Some scholarships will require interviews. Practice with friends and family. Be yourself. Be sure to always have a few key things to talk about, things that you’re really passionate about. Even when you get stumped on a question, there’s always some way to tie in something that you’re interested in and make it relevant. You can probably find sample questions online, which is good preparation. I’ve been asked anything from my thoughts on the economy, to projects that I’ve worked on, to activities that I’m involved in, to how many golf balls would fit in the average airplane. Even if they ask you a question that may bring up something negative (“What’s your greatest weakness?”), spin it back to something positive.

Thank everyone who has made your education possible.

You should always thank anyone who has provided you with a scholarship, anyone who has written you a rec, anyone who has helped you practice your interviews (or conducted your actual interviews); because these people have invested time in your academic and career success. Keep a spreadsheet of everyone who has helped you (along with contact info) and be sure to drop him or her a line and send a card. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the numerous companies and organizations that have made paying for Stanford and all the unique opportunities possible.

What are you waiting for? Apply yourself!

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