Women’s leadership conference opens doors for IST students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Opportunities for engaged scholarship outside of the classroom abound for students in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST). Recently, two members of the IST Diplomat Leadership Academy — Erin McGovern and Elizabeth Kohler — attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Houston thanks to scholarship funding.  

The conference, an annual event that boasts the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, is presented by the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology in partnership with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Women studying in the College of IST are encouraged to apply for scholarships to attend this prominent event, which this year featured keynote speakers such as Hillary Mason, founder of Fast Forward Labs, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the best-selling book "Lean In."

McGovern, a junior studying security and risk analysis (SRA), said that Sandberg’s address to a crowd of thousands was inspirational and thought-provoking, as she encouraged those in attendance to be courageous enough to take on more technical roles in the workplace, despite challenges that might seem daunting.

“It was incredible to meet like-minded women who are interested in information security, as well as be able to gain networking opportunities,” said McGovern. “And along with interviews and meeting professionals from other companies, I was able to listen to a lot of great talks.”

In addition to making new friends, McGovern’s networking paid off in the form of securing a summer internship with a consulting firm that interviewed her at the conference. She said attending the conference has sharpened her intentions regarding her career goals, and she now hopes to travel and work as a consultant to broaden her skills. 

“The lectures I heard and the inspiring group of 12,000 women in technology made me feel so happy that I chose a major in which our community is so supportive and encouraging,” said McGovern. “Everyone at the conference wanted each other to succeed and find our passion — I hope that other women from Penn State get to share this experience in the future.” 

Kohler, a junior double majoring in IST and SRA from Lansdale, said that attending the conference changed her outlook on life. She plans to take what she learned about the gender gap and the need for diversity in technology careers and apply it to her future as a leader in the field.

Last Updated February 08, 2016