These days the stats are well known: women make up more than half of the US labor force but only 30 percent of the jobs in tech and less than a quarter of leadership positions in tech. With this statistic in mind, you can imagine that women specializing in cloud technologies are few and far between.
That’s why five years ago we founded Cloud Girls, a vendor-neutral, not-for-profit community of female technology advocates dedicated to educating themselves, their organizations, and their customers about the dynamic cloud ecosystem.
We explore emerging market and technical trends, advocate best practices/reference architectures, and build community consensus. Most importantly, we provide a technical and business support system for our members, who are invited to join based on their engagement in cloud, primarily as sales and engineering experts. In this way, Cloud Girls truly is empowering and fostering the next wave of women in technology.
Creating the "Woman to Watch" Award
As our group has grown and matured, we have encountered and engaged some amazing and talented women working in the cloud—many on the front lines but not in the headlines. So, we decided that we want to recognize and reward them, raising their profile as role models. To do that in 2016, we are giving the first-ever Cloud Girls Rising: A Woman to Watch award.
We believe that women who have put their stake in the ground early around cloud computing are risk takers. Cloud is just starting to become a "safe" technology to explore, and it’s even becoming a little cool.
For the longest time cloud was the "Wild West", and the women who decided to gamble on it were brave pioneers in uncharted territory. Plenty of evangelizing happens prior to the adoption of new technologies; cloud is no exception. These women took a chance on a new technology as much as they took a chance on themselves. With this new award, we want to honor that courage and bravery.
Cloud Girls Rising puts the spotlight on the most talented women in the space who are advancing and shaping the cloud conversation. The yardstick for measurement is: innovation, solution orientation, and thought leadership.
Professional accomplishment was weighted heavily in our consideration along with leadership skills and dedication to specific cloud technologies. We also thought it important to measure their involvement in mentoring other women in technology.
For Cloud Girls, giving back is a big deal.
The Cloud Girls Board of Directors—with assistance from the leadership of a like-minded sister organization called Women in the Channel (WiC)—developed criteria along with a scoring matrix for evaluating candidates for the award. These criteria include:
- Achieving personal success
- Evangelizing knowledge and change in the cloud space
- Advancing the cloud conversation among women—from the classroom to the boardroom
We partnered with Channel Partners, a leading publication for the channel, to solicit applications from Dec. 1, 2015, through Jan. 15, 2016. A judging panel from Cloud Girls and WiC rated each applicant across the three categories.
We were impressed by the caliber of the candidates, making winner selection a challenge. Complicating the decision was the fact that the women were at various stages of their careers—mature leaders and up-and-comers.
Cloud Girls Trailblazer & Cloud Girls Rising Star
So, we chose to present two awards: Cloud Girls Trailblazer and Cloud Girls Rising Star. With these two awards, we can recognize those women who have laid the groundwork as cloud evangelists and those women who are showing incredible initiative and potential to be the next female cloud leaders.
We are very excited to have just presented these inaugural awards to two very deserving women on March 17th at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Janet Schijns, Vice President of Global Marketing for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, was recognized as a Cloud Girls Trailblazer. Samantha Ciaccia, Channel Engagement Manager at Datto Inc., was honored as a Cloud Girls Rising Star. See here for the full results.
After going through this process, it is clearer than ever that there are many talented women in tech. So, we would encourage other groups to think about how they might recognize outstanding women in their space.
We want to encourage them to stay and contribute to the advancement of their fields. It’s important to let them know that their ideas, efforts, and hard work matter. They are valued.
Read more inspiring stories about women making a difference in the tech world and beyond at ItWasNeverADress.com and while you’re there, upload your own story! You could end up being a source of inspiration!
Jo Peterson, author of this piece, would like to thank Manon Buettner, an accomplished infrastructure architect, data center and cloud analyst and practitioner who helped write this article. She is founding co-chair of Cloud Girls.