Meredith Bronk is the new president of OST
. She was one of the original seven employees who bought out OST (when it was a division in another company) in 2002. At that time, sales were around $5 million a year. Today, OST is forecasting sales of over $100 million for this fiscal year.
In a 2009 report about women in I.T.,
the conclusion was that, despite the prediction that technology job opportunities are expected to grow at a faster rate than all other jobs in the professional sector, the industry is failing to attract and retain highly qualified women. In a short interview, Bronk shares her insights and experiences about efforts to attract and retain women within technology.
RG: What is your assessment about the "state of the I.T." in terms of its ability to attract and retain highly qualified women?
MB: I think the stereotype of I.T. and technology is hard and slow to overcome but I think we are overcoming it. As I look at the statistics you shared from 2009 it was going in the wrong direction. I think about what has happened since then. You have Meg Whitman, president and CEO of HP in 2011; the CEO of IBM, Virginia Rometty in 2012; and Melissa Mayer in Yahoo in 2012. There is a surge of women leaders in the industry that is helping to change the stereotype.
We are also seeing that with our recent hires. We did not have any female consultants on staff a couple of years ago and we have hired three just in the last six months. We are seeing that the tide is changing over the last few years but it is slow.
I.T. is about problem solving. It's about communication and working with people and understanding business, business outcomes and business objectives. As you break the stereotype that I.T. is all about someone sitting in a dark corner at a keyboard, it becomes part of attracting diverse talent, including women, to the industry.
RG: What can companies do to change the current state of affairs?
MB: There are couple of things. I recently had the chance to attend the "50 Most Influential Women of West Michigan"luncheon and the keynote was Reshma Saujani, CEO and Founder of Girls Who Code.
I am often the only woman leader in the room and had stopped noticing. I had not necessarily, proactively, put myself out there as a female leader in technology. She (Reshma) made a comment: "You can't be what you can't see." As a female leader, creating awareness and being someone who girls can see, and that the possibility exists, has to be where it starts. She inspired me to embrace the fact that I am a female leader in technology and could be a motivator for others.
At OST, we are actively recruiting female talent. We are also engaging with BitCamp, we are engaging with younger girls, because the only way you can change the trend is to bring girls up in the industry from an earlier age.
I had someone tell me the other day, you have to challenge the absurdity of the status quo. That can translate well into women in technology and what we are doing and teaching.
The other thing is that women have to support other women in I.T. We have to be better at helping each other, putting ourselves out there and encouraging others to put themselves out there.
RG: If you could speak to classroom of 7th and 8th grade girls as part of a "career day" program, what would you say?
MB: I have three daughters, 4th, 6th and 8th grade. So I have an opportunity to talk to middle schools every day. The most important thing I tell them is, challenge the absurdity. Don't take everything at face value. And second, do what you love. Don't limit yourself and explore everything you can.