During the Dell Technologies Forum in Washington, D.C., five influential women in the Federal and industry technology sector shared their insights on breaking barriers and driving change.
In a male-dominated field, they emphasized that inclusivity and mentorship are the keys to success.
Elham Tabassi, a senior research analyst for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), highlighted the critical role of diversity in technology development. She stressed the importance of diverse perspectives, including women’s, in shaping solutions.
“How does diversity of not only geographic diversity, demographic diversity, but thought diversity and making sure all of them are included – all of the voices are included in the process is really important,” she said.
“The thought processes, the background in terms of the knowledge is also diverse, is an extremely powerful thing and it’s extremely needed for where we are going with the technology,” Tabassi said during the “Make Your Mark: Breaking Barriers and Driving Change” panel.
Amrita Maguire, a senior principal engineer at Dell Technologies, discussed the significance of mentorship and sponsorship in empowering women. She underlined the scarcity of women in leadership roles and the need to seek out role models at every stage of one’s career.
“At every stage of your life, you need to engage with people; you need to go seek those role models,” Maguire said. “Why mentorship and sponsorship is important, particularly for women, is there are not that many women in leadership roles.”
“I would say mentorship is critical, but sponsorship becomes the key to promoting you because once you engage with people, they know they trust you, they value you, they know what you can do, and then they speak up for you when you’re not in the room,” Maguire said.
Renata Spinks, a seasoned Federal leader and Army veteran, emphasized the importance of leaving the door open for women to follow. She credited those who had trailblazed before her with being game changers in her career, providing support, guidance, and encouragement.
Spinks stressed that overcoming systemic barriers is essential for innovation.
“There’s just so much to the barriers and if we allow it to stagnate us, we won’t ever innovate,” Spinks said.
Suzette Kent, former Federal chief information officer, concluded the panel by emphasizing the need for proactive inclusion of women in technology discussions. With the rapid pace of innovation, Kent highlighted the importance of ensuring that the right people, including women, are invited to the table to drive progress.
“When I look to the future I think about the pace, and the pace is moving so quickly,” Kent said. “We have to be intentional about making sure that all the right people are at the table.”