During this year's Women's History Month, departments across Arizona State University rallied in celebration and recognition of women's accomplishments, both on and off campus. From explorations of women’s movements that may save the world to discussions of women’s health issues, women across ASU are making a difference.
For fields like IT, research shows "women make up 47% of all employed adults in the United States but hold only 25% of computing roles," making the need for celebrating and recognizing women's accomplishments in the field of technology and beyond all the more important.
To that end, ASU congratulates Jess Evans, the chief operating and digital transformation officer for the University Technology Office, who has been named as one of the Top 100 Women in Technology by Technology magazine.
Prior to joining ASU, Evans had a proven track record as a senior information technology executive with strong global and regional experiences within multiple sectors like finance, insurance, consulting, education and health care. She now joins 99 other women as one of the forces for changemaking in various technology fields across the world.
Here she talks about what means to be a woman in higher education and IT.
Question: To begin, what does it mean to you to be named one of the Top 100 Women in Technology by Technology magazine this year?
Answer: This recognition points to a monumental shift within my career. In fact, I can clearly recall feeling ecstatic upon learning that I was even nominated for the Top 100 Women in Technology in the world! I was informed that the final results would come out on March 8, in honor of International Women's Day, and it’s still sinking in that I made the list — it's such an honor and I am humbled by the list and who is on it; to be among such giants is incredible.
Q: How have you seen women’s roles in technology industries change over the course of your career?
A: The trajectory of women engagement and involvement in the technology field has grown at a snail's pace compared to the trajectory of growth within the field itself. However, in the last few years, with technology spreading into many facets of every industry, it affords an opportunity for everybody to work with technology in various disciplines. Opposed to traditional technology jobs that were previously only the purview of the “IT department,” it has really become more blended across all of the functions, providing more opportunities for many in the technology field.
However, for women in technology who seek to be leaders in this field, there are still barriers that must be overcome. I believe if we continue to break down barriers of entry for everyone — not just women — that's how we will find more opportunity. We really need to start looking at holistic hiring practices, not just the traditional way we've approached staffing. Diversity of thought in the room is key. In order for the tech industry to keep up with that technology growth curve, diversity of thought is an enabler to innovation and growth, elements needed to keep up with that technology trajectory.
Q: How can allyship bring women into leadership roles they have historically been kept away from?
A: Allies are key to success. Does that mean you need to have a mentor? Maybe. Does that mean you should have a coach? Probably. Does that mean that you should have peers and colleagues that you respect and can have a difficult conversation with? Absolutely.
You need to align yourself with people who are going to help you, challenge you and grow with you because that is what leads you to success. You can't be adaptable without the help of allies, and so I say they are a critical component to any individual success, but absolutely necessary for leadership success.
Q: What advice would you give to other women in IT — be they students, in their early career or later in their career — who see your accomplishment as one of their goals as well?
A: Work-life balance is crucial for any up-and-coming technology professional because ingenuity and innovation happen when the doors for it are open. However, those doors will not be open very long. You need to have a solid understanding of how much time and personal investment you can make to advance your professional goals.
Additionally, you must be willing to take calculated risks and make decisions quickly. The pace of new technology in the market is overwhelming, and working in the field is no different. Technology leaders must not only understand the nuances of the services, they must understand how those services impact customers, other systems and many other factors.
Having the right technical knowledge and the emotional and social skills to drive results is key to helping drive technology teams.
Q: Through the lens of one of the Top 100 Women in Tech, can you reflect on Maya Angelou’s quote, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better”? What might that mean for women in the technology fields?
A: In order to do your best, you must put your best self forward at all times. I believe Maya Angelou’s quote speaks to this approach. With the ever changing solutions available in the technology sector, it is imperative to remain flexible and open-minded in your work. When Angelou says, “do the best you can until you know better,” she's absolutely right.
As a woman, you keep doing what you're doing, arm yourself with current knowledge and if you become aware that a pivot is needed, do it swiftly and decisively. Stand strong in your goals and if you need to pivot because you become aware of a better way, make the change without hesitation and keep moving forward.
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