By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills
Historically it has focused on a diverse array of topics including career development, health and wellness, community connections, social impact, arts and culture and more.
But this year, the conference had a bigger focus on women in technology. Perhaps because women make up 35 percent of workers in the technology industry and studies have shown that more diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones.
During a luncheon keynote address, Karen Quintos, Chief Customer Officer at Dell, spoke about the need for more women in tech. She has two daughters and she tells them they can be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do. She doesn’t think they’ll have to face the same social biases and same challenges many women have in the past, she said.
“We need more female role models to inspire our next generation,” Quintos told more than 7,000 women attending the 17th annual Texas Conference for Women Tuesday at the Austin Convention Center.
Quintos said she’s been coming to the conference for many years and has met many amazing women during that time. Dell is also a sponsor of the conference.
“It’s pretty clear to me that there is not a pipeline problem,” she said.
She then outlined steps Dell is taking to attract more female employees and to train them for leadership positions.
When Dell and EMC Technologies merged, the new company Dell Technologies now has 20 percent more female executive leaders than it did just a year ago.
Dell has also trained nearly 85 percent of its executives around social biases. Giving them the training and tools they need to recognize and be self-aware of the biases they might have, she said.
Earlier in the day, a panel discussion focused on “The Culture of Tech: How Women are Changing the Rules.”Carla Pineyro Sublett, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Rackspace and a board member of the Texas Conference for Women, participated in the panel. She said a key takeaway is that tech has a great opportunity to take the notion of the pipeline seriously and to build a stronger pipeline of women coming into tech.
“A big takeaway for me this year is to move from talking about it into action,” Sublett said.
She said she spoke after the panel with Tamara Fields, managing director of Accenture who also participated in the panel, about how to move into action. She said they’ve been having this conversation for years and they need to get it into action to build a more diverse workforce. That involves exposing more young girls to the opportunities in tech, she said.
Rackspace sponsored the conference and has sponsored the conference for several years because it’s committed to what the conference is all about which is the development and inspiration of women, Sublett said.
“It’s a great place for us to acquire talent and to establish our brand and to let them know who we are as a company and that we believe in the advancement of women in tech,” she said.
It’s also a great retention tool for existing female Rackspace employees with 175 of them attending this year’s conference, Sublett said. Rackspace, with its headquarters in San Antonio, has about 5,000 employees in Central Texas with 500 employees based in Austin. Sublett is based in Austin but commutes back and forth between Austin and San Antonio.