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TECH KNOW
Knowledge is power

Computing organizations empower women in technology. Kristen McQuillin enjoys the fruit of knowledge.

Women have a long history in IT. In 1843, Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, described what is considered the first computer programming language. Back then she stood alone, but today women make up approximately one third of the IT workforce worldwide.

By 2005, Japan aims to be the world's most technologically advanced nation. But to get there requires a lot of work - and many new workers. According to Hiroaki Watanabe, a researcher at the Japan Institute of Labor, computer and data processing services will hire 600,000 new employees in the next ten years. This soaring demand will give women the opportunity to bridge the gender gap in the IT field. But if you're new to this line of work how do you get a foot in the door?

Online women's IT organizations can help. Whether you're a college student hoping for a job in technology, a woman wishing to make a career change, or a professional already in the field, joining a women's computing group provides support, advice, and networking contacts. Online communities for women in technology include the Association of Women in Computing, World WIT, Systers, while various websites offer job postings and national and international conferences.

Personal interaction takes women's groups a step beyond a web page. One global women's IT organization, DigitalEve, has a chapter here in Tokyo. Over 100 women in Japan are members of the bilingual group, which launched in February. "Our mission is to encourage women and girls to pursue technology-related careers and to empower women already in IT to become top-level professionals," Kristen Elsby, co-leader of the group, explains. Globally, DigitalEve numbers over 10,000 members in communities in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Many members, many views
IT careers span a range of technologies and interests. DigitalEve Japan's membership includes women in financial services, agriculture, media, education, law, architecture, and Internet services. All ages - from students to retirees - are represented, and women of all skill levels are encouraged to join DigitalEve's free mailing list and to attend monthly workshops and events in the Tokyo area.

Tomoe Ryushin, a Kanazawa-based writer, explains why she's a member. "I do heaps of my researching on the Internet, and lots of work via email too, so over the last ten years my computer has really come to be a central figure in my life, something I never imagined would happen and for a long time actually tried to avoid. But somewhere along the way I realized this was a great thing - how else could one live in the countryside and write for publications all around the globe on a myriad of subjects? This is just what I've always wanted. So I decided to embrace the cyberborg existence."

Caroline Pover, founder of Being A Broad and author of a forthcoming book of the same name, offers a different perspective. "Personally for me I feel connected to hundreds of women through the DigitalEve mailing list, as well as my own, and I think that feeling of being connected may be something that women value, appreciate, and need more than men, especially in Japan."

Not just another pretty list
DigitalEve Japan offers monthly events featuring low-cost, hands-on opportunities to learn new skills and explore cutting-edge technologies. Upcoming seminars include a two-day web design retreat, a digital video workshop, and a tutorial on database design. The 10th of every month is a social networking event, DigitalEVEning, held at locations around Tokyo.

By developing a community where women can discuss issues relating to their digital lifestyles, members of women's IT groups benefit from new perspectives that enhance their careers. And with 40 percent of women in Japan using the Internet for more than 50 hours per month, such a service will allow women to fill gaps in IT and programming by helping to give birth to new ideas.

Resource List

DigitalEve Japan
www.digitalevejapan.org

Assoc. of Women in Computing
www.awc-hq.org

Institute for Women & Technology
www.iwt.org

Systers
www.systers.org

Webgrrls
www.webgrrls.com

Wired Women
www.wiredwoman.com

WITI
www.witi.org

World WIT
www.worldwit.org


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