Throughout my career in consulting, I have often wondered how I got lucky while at the same time I often question, “Why is it so hard to just achieve like my male peers?” It seemed so counterintuitive to me that I was being supported and yet questioned at the same time. How can one group of people see my value and the other work so hard to make me feel less than worthy?
From a lower salary, to dress codes, comments and prejudice, I experienced so many things that make being a woman in a male-dominated field different and harder than necessary. And despite all of these things, many people are unaware that these issues exist and are still dealt with in today’s society. Maybe it is a product of living in the Deep South that made them more prominent for me, or at least apparent, but I am happy to say that over the years I have seen the atmosphere start to change.
I started my personal journey into the world of SharePoint and technology through a slightly different path than many. I have always been creative at heart, and I chose to follow that passion to art school at Mississippi State University. After four and a half years there, I left with a head full of big dreams and a goal of working in advertising. I was able to achieve that goal working in several advertising agencies in Houston, Texas. This gave me a wonderful background for understanding problems and what the client needed beyond what they were saying. I began my creative problem-solving right there in Houston.
After many years in advertising, I wanted more of a challenge, so I chose to move to Alabama where I felt more at home and I became part of the marketing team for an IT consulting firm. Little did I know just how much this one decision would change my life. The company introduced me to SharePoint and opened my eyes to many opportunities. Once I began designing public sites and intranets for customers in SharePoint, I found myself challenged in ways I had never before with billboards and commercials. I could solve problems and improve people’s daily lives, not just their revenue. It was thrilling and exciting, but didn’t come without challenges both professionally and personally.
When I first started getting involved in the SharePoint community beyond my company, I was extremely lucky to find two very special ladies in Lori Gowin and Laura Rogers. Not only are they both fantastic at SharePoint, but they both live in my town. They gave me fantastic advice and some tips I will never forget. Having these two ladies in my corner put me on a path to success.
Lori Gowin and Cathy Dew at a Women in SharePoint booth
As I branched out of Alabama, I met many great men of SharePoint who did nothing but encourage me. They also introduced me to Becky Isserman, who quickly became a friend.
In my new inner circle of fantastic Women of SharePoint, an idea began to form. As we discussed and faced our own challenges, we were able to encourage and motivate each other. Why couldn't we do this for the larger group of women we were starting to meet? So with that idea, Women in SharePoint started to become a reality.
But how do we get going? What do we do? Becky, Lori and I pondered these questions. We decided to just jump in. I created a logo and from there we each took on a role. I fell easily back into marketing ideas and before we knew it, we were live blogging at the Best Practices Conference in DC.
We founded Women in SharePoint based on our beliefs that the best support for women in technology fields are other women in the same field. We often face similar issues and hurdles in our work and careers.
As the group grew, we included many other ladies as leaders who helped shape our methods, ideas and events. A few of these core ladies include Karuana Gatimu, Marie-Michelle Strah, Rima Reyes and Nedra Allmond. Without them we wouldn't have gotten far.
Over the years the leadership has changed and groups have formed, but our mission and dedication to support and motivate the women in our field and girls interested in technology has not changed.
In the past few years our core leadership team has gone back to just Lori Gowin and myself, but our groups continue to prosper locally in Washington DC, Colorado, Minnesota, Boston and many other locations with a few more coming soon. We also benefit from the support of Microsoft and conferences and events like SPTechCon who host luncheons for us to network and empower.
Women in SharePoint group photo, SharePoint Conference 2014
Lori and I looked for a way to expand our methods and offerings beyond our current capacity. This led me to IT Unity. With a new platform and more people to support us, Women in SharePoint can now expand our offerings and continue growing our mission.
With the support of IT Unity and the addition of Heather Newman and Jennifer Mason to our team, we are excited to bring more content, events and networking opportunities to the women we support.
As we continue to grow and expand our horizons with Women in SharePoint, we want to thank everyone who has supported and pushed us to be better and go farther. Keep an eye out here for the latest news, events and content as we continue to offer even more to the women we are so passionate about.