Students Find Inspiration at Women in Tech Conference
Catherine Smith, a professor in the School of Emerging Media and Technology and School of Information, said she remembers the days of male-dominated tech conferences with so little space for women, even the restrooms were exclusive to men.
“If you're a woman, you’d have to go running around trying to find the one women's room that's open,” Smith said. “So women would get together and they would say, ‘This isn't right. This isn't good; we should feel more comfortable in our own professional space.’”
From that, the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing conference (OCWiC) was born and every two years it draws hundreds of students, academics and professionals to Huron, Ohio. The two day event provides a space for women in the male dominated tech industry – including Kent State students – to network, practice leadership skills and mentor each other. In 2023, the School of Emerging Media and Technology was a conference sponsor and offered scholarships for students to attend.
“Having women who are in IT come and talk about their experiences shows you that someone else has trudged this path and there’s room for me as well,” said Toqa Hassan, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Communication and Information, who attended the conference. “Seeing other people talk about their experiences, it fills your heart.”
Hassan attended several workshops throughout the weekend and even found potential collaborators for a future project — people she would not have otherwise met outside the conference.
“Students really have a chance to build a strong support network that takes them outside the limitations of the current campus that they're on,” Smith said.
The next conference is the 20th anniversary, and Smith said her goal is to bring two van loads of students for it. However, students don’t need to wait until 2025 for an opportunity to experience the benefits of OCWiC, as the organization is hosting online speaker events throughout the year.
These events, Smith said, are focused on “giving people confidence that they can make their own career and it doesn't have to look like the careers that the men have in the field.”
More information and a complete schedule of OCWiC programming is available on their website.