Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Red Chair-web

Women in technology

Alums shine in industry that needs diversity

When is a chair not just a chair? When it’s used for taking a stand. That’s what members of the Wheaton community discovered during the winter semester when the Sit With Me project was brought to campus by Colleen Wheeler, assistant director of Wheaton’s Web Strategy Team and one of the founders, with Professor Tom Armstrong, of the Wheaton Autonomous Learning Laboratory (WHALE Lab).

Sit With Me is a national advocacy campaign designed to encourage women to pursue computing careers. Sitting in a red chair, participants have an opportunity to show their support and share stories about women in technology. The project perfectly corresponds with one of the goals of the WHALE Lab—to broaden the interest in computer science beyond those who major in it.

Information technology is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy, with 1.4 million job openings expected by 2020. Although women make up more than half of the American workforce, they hold only 25 percent of technology and computing jobs, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, the creator of Sit With Me.

In the spirit of the project, the Quarterly is showcasing several alumnae working in the industry. Coming from backgrounds that include a variety of majors and working in a wide range of jobs, from designing Navy destroyers to creating educational software, they illustrate the many opportunities available and the many paths into the field that a liberal arts education offers. Click on their names for short biography.

Sharon Callahan ’84

650_Sharon-Callahan1

  • CEO of LLNS at Omnicom Group
  • EVP of Omnicom Group, New York [Read more...]

Jaclyn “Jackie” Hurley Christensen ’00

Jaclyn “Jackie” Hurley Christensen ’00

  • Product owner
  • WhippleHill Communications, Bedford, N.H.

Jackie Christensen works in software development, creating a product vision for WhippleHill’s learning management system, onCampus, an online tool that helps private K–12 schools manage and share information with students and parents. It’s her job to understand the competitive landscape, conduct user research, and communicate with schools to ensure that her team is on the right track. She prioritizes which product features and enhancements her development team tackles in each software release. She also works closely with the sales and marketing team to ensure the product messaging is accurate, clear and compelling to potential customers.

“Women are major consumers of technology,” says Christensen. “If companies want to be successful now and in the future, they need people on their product development teams who relate to women’s needs and daily challenges.”

Women in technology
In the spirit of the Sit With Me project, the Quarterly is showcasing several alumnae working in the industry. Coming from backgrounds that include a variety of majors and working in a wide range of jobs, from designing Navy destroyers to creating educational software, they illustrate the many opportunities available and the many paths into the field that a liberal arts education offers.

She credits an independent study on environmental psychology she did with Professor of Psychology David Wulff for honing her writing and communications skills, which she uses every day in her job.

“I now recognize how unique an opportunity I had, working one-on-one with a professor as an undergraduate.”

Her path to a career in technology was not linear, says Christensen, who majored in environmental science and minored in psychology at Wheaton. Working in development for the Anti-Defamation League of Boston, she found she had a knack for figuring out the software programs used to track gifts and generate donor reports.

She dovetailed her interests in technology and nonprofit work as an e-philanthropy specialist for Campagne Associates in Manchester, N.H., before joining WhippleHill. “That’s the exciting thing about technology: it’s so fast-paced that unique opportunities crop up all the time.”

Catherine Malone Habas ’93

650_Habas CatherinePrincipal

CMH Communications, San Francisco

Since beginning her career in Silicon Valley after her graduation in 1993, Catherine Malone Habas has witnessed the changing role of women in the field of technology. “At that time, few of my female clients were in the executive suite.”

She now counsels many women executives in technology companies. “Diversity, whether it be gender, ethnicity or age, is critical, because with it comes different life experiences.”

In her work for CMH Communications, a technology-focused public relations firm, Habas partners with companies to create brand identity and develop messages about software that are easily understood. From there, she may pitch a story to the business press, draft a speech for an executive, or establish a meaningful social media presence for a client.

Women in technology
In the spirit of the Sit With ME project, the Quarterly is showcasing several alumnae working in the industry. Coming from backgrounds that include a variety of majors and working in a wide range of jobs, from designing Navy destroyers to creating educational software, they illustrate the many opportunities available and the many paths into the field that a liberal arts education offers.

“Public relations encompasses many strategies, and during my 20 years in the field I have been part of the evolution from print to online and social media.”

At Wheaton, Habas majored in international relations with minors in economics and political science. She says her liberal arts education taught her to quickly grasp and digest complex content. “Software designed for business users can be difficult to comprehend, much like the challenging economics classes I took with [Professor of Economics] Gordon Weil,” she says.

Habas is also a big believer in internships. “I held three during my time at Wheaton, and each one allowed me to develop a skill set that I drew from during my early professional years.”

Her most memorable was interning at the office of the late Senator Edward Kennedy in Washington, D.C., during her junior year. “The best thing a college student can do is find work outside the classroom.”