NAB: Panel Laments Lack of Women in Technology
Tech execs also talk key technologies, challenges facing the industry and more during B&C event
By Alexis Hauk, Radio World U.S. -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/17/2012 9:53:00 PMComplete Coverage: NAB 2012
It's always interesting when an event focused on women in a women-light industry is introduced by...two men.
Ascending the stage before the "New Technologies - New Opportunities" panel of B&C's first annual "Women, Technically Speaking" event Tuesday in the Las Vegas Hotel, were Louis Hillelson, VP and group publisher, B&C/Multichannel News, and Eric Mathewson, CEO of WideOrbit, which sponsored the event.
"There are sadly very few women in technology and software development," Mathewson said. "I don't expect women here to suddenly become software developers," he said, adding that he hoped women would encourage their daughters to pursue math and science.
Of course, the issue of how to push a cadre of young women into a field in which women generally comprise less than 25 percent of the workforce proved far more complex a topic than the panelists could cover in an hour. In fact, only two questions were allowed during the Q&A section.
However, in the brief time allotted, the panelists provided insights into their own career trajectories, and attempted to answer questions like "What is [the industry] missing without women in technology?" posed by the (also male) panel moderator, B&C contributing editor George Winslow.
Jenny Fulle, founder and visual effects producer at The Creative-Cartel, formerly VP of Sony Imageworks -- who said she started out at age 18 as a janitor for George Lucas during Empire Strikes Back -- pointed out that women in general are more collaborative and take diverse viewpoints into consideration when making executive decisions.
Darcy Antonellis, president, technical operations, Warner Bros., focused on the broader repercussions of a homogenous workforce.
"It is incredibly concerning, the lack of a really robust and well-represented workforce. It's bad for our economy," she said. Antonellis has even observed in her own young daughter how that natural proclivity toward math becomes "uncool" at a certain age.
Nurturing girls to pursue their interest in math and technology -- to be a "geek" -- is critical between the ages of 8-16, she said. "The numbers have to improve. We're simply not getting access to the talent that's out there... how can that be good for any of us?"
Both Antonellis and Veronica Sheehan, senior VP, global network operations and international IT at Turner Broadcasting System Inc., talked about what it's like to raise children as single mothers while pursuing a competitive career -- a conundrum that is still faced more often in the workplace by women than by men.
However, Sheehan said she advises young women not to choose between a career and family. "Make sure you understand priorities," she said. "Don't let the things that matter fall off to the side."
Antonellis said that any company you work for should "have the right DNA... and value family time. That alleviates a lot of stress when life occurs." Fulle, who has a 12-year-old son, said that she manages her business by factoring in time for her employees to be with family.
The panelists also touched on key technologies that they're focused on, challenges facing the industry as a whole and how and why they wound up in technology.
Diane Tryneski, executive VP, media and production operations for HBO -- who talked at length about the issues her network faces with constantly changing features on smartphones -- said she started out at PBS doing facility studio sales, then moved to a job in set design, then finance, then telecommunications. "I did start to think, 'Am I a jack of all trades, a master of none?' [Then] I realized I had a broad background."
That range of experience can be an advantage, according to Sheehan. "It's about knowing what you bring to the table. Don't be afraid... try the technical side if you're in operations."
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