There are few job sectors where women are overlooked for hiring, promotion, and leadership roles compared to their male counterparts as in the technology sector. Despite intense gains in social equality in the legislative arena, concerted efforts to provide computers specifically to impoverished girls, and rising test scores for girls in math and science, jobs in the technology sector have remained scarce for women. But because the Internet has helped women to network, the barriers to women in the technology sector may be broken down. If they are, it will be in no small part thanks to Carolyn Leighton.
Carolyn Leighton earned her bachelor’s degree in human development at Pacific Oaks College. In her studies there, she became passionate about women’s rights, specifically in the workplace. An expert on the gender gap and the glass ceiling, Leighton’s studies revealed to her a profound inequity in the treatment of women in the technology sector. As a businesswoman, Leighton was baffled at how slowly women were making progress in companies responsible for computer development and electronics manufacturing. Having had several successful businesses since college, Leighton was building Criterion Research when she conceived of the International Network of Women in Technology.
The International Network of Women in Technology was a business organization and social network formed by Carolyn Leighton to start addressing the wrongs she saw in the industry. Organized almost like a union, Leighton sought to promote the ideal of women banding together to make a positive contribution within the technology sector. Members of the International Network of Women in Technology supported one another in matters of promotion, informed one another about the best opportunities for employment within the technology sector and trained each other on the most effective ways to contribute to get noticed professionally by their employers. Carolyn Leighton laid that framework and built the International Network of Women in Technology!
The International Network of Women in Technology evolved into Women in Technology International as it grew exceptionally fast. With the change in name came a truly international membership and Leighton’s fledgling organization now boasts two million active members. The women of WITI continue to fight for pay equity, positions on the Boards of influential technology companies, and better business and technical education for young women. Still Carolyn Leighton spearheads all of these efforts. It is hard to imagine someone like Meg Whitman getting where she has, had Leighton and WITI not paved the way for her.
Carolyn Leighton has spent thirty-five years working to fundamentally change the way technology-based businesses treat women; it is up to the next generation of women to avail themselves of those opportunities!
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