International Girls in ICT Day 2022

Theme: Access and Safety

International Girls in ICT Day celebrates the importance of girls and women in the information and communications technology sector. Since 2001, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, has sponsored this event. The theme for 2022 is "access and safety", still a significant issue for many girls, women, and non-binary folks in the technology space.

We invited OpenNMS employees to share their own experiences in ICT as women, non-binary, those identifying as female, or allies.

Here are some of their stories.

Gabriela Lopez, Senior Information Security Analyst

"I am very grateful to be in a generation that was able to witness and grow with technology - from Nokias to iPhones, to praying no one called our house line while I was trying to connect to AOL, to having a full mesh system in my "smart home." It has been a fantastic journey and all of it played a huge role in why I am in the field today. Unfortunately, it wasn't a clear-cut path for me, but once I decided to take the plunge and transition into the technology industry I knew I made the right decision.

I definitely faced imposter syndrome from the very start. I always felt like I was underqualified and, truthfully, it is something that I struggle with to this very day. Aside from that, I had a lot of trouble navigating the industry. Technology is all-encompassing and I was extremely overwhelmed trying to understand all the moving parts. Luckily, I can say that this gets easier over time, but I think with any new experience sometimes we feel like we are drinking from a fire hose.

The future is bright - but it can always be brighter. I will admit, it's really cool to see that more women are entering this field. If we continue on this path, I can only imagine our presence a couple years from now! However, I think we really need to do better with our younger girls who will eventually grow into women. This means providing resources and closing the digital divide. This also means not turning them down, ever. I have heard of many young girls who have an interest in STEM, but when they apply to a middle school or a high school and choose that as their topic of focus, they get denied or wait listed. It is very easy to weaken a child's spirit, and we should be empowering and accepting them every chance we get. Wait listing or rejecting a child early on does so much more damage than good, and I encourage our educators to think about this more."

Laura Manigan, Senior Marketing Project Manager

"From an early age I always envisioned myself becoming a feature article writer or English Professor. My childhood dreams of what I might become offered many tempting versions, none of which included working in the tech industry. Since then, I've come to find myself immersed in the tech industry.

From hearing aids to Internet Service Providers to Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) technology, much of my career has been built on ever-evolving technology and marketing that tech to the intended audience. Starting my career in an entry-level marketing coordinator position, I learned my opinion as a woman held lesser value than my male counterparts in virtually every situation. Traveling for company trips in those days caused intense Boys' Club anxiety and a heightened attention to surroundings and situations. In those days, there were several times I found myself feeling uncomfortable, surrounded by executive management in a situation offering unclear options. Over the many years that followed, that mindset slowly changed across many industries, offering hope for the future. Now, working in open source, I've never felt so valued or supported to perform successfully as a person. How refreshing it feels to have found a place for myself to thrive based on quality of work and not gender."

Mary Beth Smith, Senior HR Business Partner

"In my role, I have a unique seat in regard to ICT. I get a humbling place at the table to observe the value of diverse perspectives in the tech space. When I talk to young people who are female, non-binary, or identify as female, I try to remind them that their voices matter. In ICT, their voices matter even more. I tell them that we are so much further along now than even 15 years ago, and that they are part of the story yet to be written. It’s true that we still have some progress ahead in regard to inclusion. It will take strong women to break any existing barriers. Women are great problem solvers, and we need the unique female perspective in business to reach the best solutions. I encourage them not to let one voice who is against them stop them from achieving a career in ICT – because they will hear objections in their journey. Some of those objections will be “loud.” I remind them to focus instead on finding community, recognizing those who are sponsors and allies, and listening to their guidance. I also remind them – you belong, your contributions matter, and you will thrive in the right place!"

Jessica Hustace, Senior Director, Marketing

"I’ve always been pretty geeky. From typing MS-DOS commands to open games while sitting on my parent’s lap to downloading unlicensed anime subs over IRC on my self-built Linux machine as a teenager. I was fortunate to have access to a tech program in my local high school that had a programming track. I was very keen on going into either software development or network engineering.

However, I was always either the only or one of a few girls in my programming classes and despite our teachers all being phenomenal and supportive women from the tech industry, bullying and micro aggressions still managed to slip in from time to time. Eventually, I decided to pursue my interest in community development instead. Learning more about group dynamics and how to build community helped me see opportunities to bridge gaps between diverse perspectives rather than giving in or fighting it out.

I have to credit my dad for telling me (probably in exasperation) to “Stop asking whether or not you can - just do it. If you break something, we can fix it.” If I could share one piece of advice, that would be it."

Bonnie Robinson, Lead Communications Professional

"A career in ICT was never on my radar. I have a degree in English literature and planned to be a writer or musician. (My first job post-university was editing an opera magazine!) I was never into tech. But when I started my own desktop publishing business, the documentation for the software I was using was terrible, so I offered to write a “for Dummies” type book on how to use it. The book sold well, and I discovered I had a real skill for writing clear, effective, and user-focused content about technology. So, ICT isn’t just for people in STEM: tech organizations need graphic designers, writers (technical and marketing), product designers, and more. You can build a successful career from your more artsy background.

Things have changed a lot since I started in tech. Employees were very homogeneous: mainly white men. At one company I was one of only three women out of 40 employees. While I never felt unsafe in that environment, it was difficult to navigate. I wasn’t always heard or taken seriously, both because I was a woman and because of my role (not a developer). My suggestions were often brushed aside, only to be adopted later when a man suggested the same thing. I found that discouraging and frustrating, and I felt undervalued.

While tech is still male dominated, there is much more diversity, and that diversity means different perspectives, approaches, and attitudes. Having those voices, and more importantly hearing them makes for happier employees, better opportunities, and better technology. ICT needs you."